Monday, May 26, 2014

The Romanov Prophecy

By Steve Berry

Set in the time after the fall of the Soviet Union, this story imagines a Russia that is disappointed with democracy, fearful of a return to communism and so has decided to resurrect the aristocracy. The search is on for the man who will be the new tsar of Russia. This person will have to fit several qualifications, the chief of which is that he is the most direct descendant of the last tsar, Nicholas II, who was murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918. Which might be a bit of a challenge, since Nicholas' whole family was executed at the same time he was. Or were they? There have always been rumors and questions as to whether they all died that day. When the bodies were exhumed in the 1990s, two were missing, which is the basis of this story by Berry, who assumes Nicholas' son and a daughter escaped the firing squad and survived.
A faction of several powerful leaders has come up with a Romanov cousin who they have put forth as the rightful claimant to the tsar's throne. These leaders, representing various factions such as the military, the bureaucracy, the Russian mob, think to control the government of the new tsar by putting their puppet ruler on the throne. The idea that there may be a direct descendant of Nicholas upsets them greatly and they will do anything to put their man on the throne.
Atlanta lawyer Miles Lord's firm has been hired to do the required background check on the power faction's candidate. Miles has had a life long interest in Russia and speaks and reads the language and, during his research in Russian archives, finds some papers that seem to indicate that some of Nicholas' children survived. Displeased with his discovery, his employers turn against him and attempt to eliminate this threat to their candidate by killing Lord. They fail and Lord sets off on the trail of the Romanov heir with the help of a beautiful circus acrobat and a secret Russian society dedicated to protecting the Romanovs.

This was an OK story. How an American would be able to figure out what has eluded the Russians for decades was a bit improbable as was the ultimate destination of the hunt for the heir. Also, how long it took a supposedly smart guy like Lord to understand who was betraying his movements to his enemies was kind of improbable too. Anyway, it made for an OK read if only for the story of the last tsar and his family and what was done to them. That part was pretty interesting even if the rest was just ordinary.

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