Review: 'The Romanov Cross' is a gripping read

AP News
Posted: Mar 05, 2013 11:27 AM
Review: 'The Romanov Cross' is a gripping read

"The Romanov Cross" (Bantam), by Robert Masello

Army epidemiologist Frank Slater does the right thing — and is court-martialed for his actions — in Robert Masello's latest novel, "The Romanov Cross."

During sentencing, Slater is stripped of his military credentials and pay. Surprisingly, he's given no jail time, but he soon learns why.

His expertise is needed in Alaska, where a burial site containing victims of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic has begun to erode. The exposed bodies might contain the deadly virus, and if they do, Slater must make sure the contagion doesn't start again.

The same year the plague killed so many, the Romanov family in Russia was murdered. In a second narrative, Anastasia, the youngest daughter of Czar Nicholas II, miraculously survives and escapes with the help of a young soldier.

Anastasia has a piece of jewelry given to her by the mad monk Rasputin that promises to protect her from harm.

The love story between Anastasia and the soldier tears at the heartstrings. The mixture of their love story, the history of what happened to the Romanov family and the depth of Anastasia's despair during her escape would make a terrific stand-alone novel. Add Slater's story and a modern-day flu epidemic possibly killing millions of people and the stories come together. There are even elements of a ghost story and outright horror.

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All these elements shouldn't work together, but they do. "The Romanov Cross" holds readers' attention from the beginning to the very end.