The Romanov Cross by Robert Masello (book review)
You may think that ‘The Romanov Cross’ doesn’t belong on a site like this but much if you look under the surface, much like the heroes have to under the Alaskan ice, there is a little bit of supernatural.
Facing a court martial for doing the right thing morally but not professionally, army epidemiologist, someone who studies the outbreak of diseases in controlled populations, Frank Slater, is plucked from unemployed to travel to Alaska to investigate a colony that was destroyed by Spanish flu almost a century ago. The ice is melting and the virus could still be active so Frank and a crack team of scientists head to assess the situation.
The modern-day action is broken up with the fall of Rasputin and a group that worshiped him. The Mad Monk’s emerald cross, unearthed by one of the Alaskans, could be the key to the whole situation.
There’s quite a lot going on in this novel. From stalking wolves and bejewelled crosses to Mad Monks and Spanish flu, and everything in between, the action moves about a bit. Almost too much. It could have done with removing one or two elements to keep the fluidity and pace. As it stands, it’s just a bit disjointed and it takes over 200 pages to really get going.
The hero of the story, Frank Slater, is a solid character if a bit stereotypical. He’s separated from his wife but still sort of loves her, he’s willing to buck authority if it means doing the right thing and he’s loyal to his friends. Unfortunately not all of the characters get this much depth. Some of the science team are interchangeable and probably expendable. Even the potential love interest, Nika, is a tad flat with an uninspiring relationship.
It’s not all bad news though. Masello has certainly done his research and while some liberties have no doubt been taken with the Rasputin story, it did encourage me to investigate the story a little more.
‘The Romanov Cross’ is a very straight-forward adventure and would make a great holiday read, perhaps not if you’re going somewhere cold though. The genre aspect is perhaps a little tenuous but the McGuffin, I mean emerald cross, does have some mystical qualities.
It’s a solid read and you’ll enjoy it if you like Dan Brown but if you want something more supernatural, there are better books out there. Make no mistake, this is a thriller with some slight mystical elements.
(pub: Bantam Dell. 495 page hardback. Price: $26.00 (US), $31.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-553-80780-6)
check out websites: http://www.bantamdell.com/ and www.robertmasello.com