The Romanov Cross
by Robert Masello
Cover Artist: Photo: Cross by John Burcham / Getty Images;
background by David Clapp / Oxford Scientific / Getty Images
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Bantam Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780553807806
Date: 05 March 2013 List Price $26.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Nearly a hundred years ago two major events happened, both changed the world. In Russia, the Tsar and his family were killed. Around the world, the Spanish flu decimated the healthiest population. These two events will come together in modern Alaska.
Harley and Charlie Vane have always been trouble. So it is no surprise that they are the center of the problem. Harley was out on his ship when he comes across a coffin floating in the sea. In that coffin is a silver cross covered in emeralds. The potential wealth this represents, draws Charlie to push his brother to go to the source of the coffin, a small island that once held a Russian Monastery, to rob the graves. The problem is that the cold nature of the area, may have allowed the virus that killed the monks to survive until today. Contact with the bodies may infect and release the virus on the world again.
Frank Slater is an epidemiologist that has faced the worst the world has to offer. His passion can get him in trouble. He takes risks, but is bailed out by his talent. When a strange photo and tale of survival emerges near the Bering Straits, Frank and a team are rushed North to face the potential reemergence of the most dangerous of flu virus. They fear others will go to the island, but they don't know how quickly the Vanes will move. Nor do they know that the island has other protectors. Frank is focused on the mission until he meets the Mayor of a small Alaskan village, a woman that may let him forget all of his troubles.
The third part of the story revolves around the Russian revolution and Anastasia. It details the ruination of her world and the series of events that bring her to a small island monastery. It also tells of the curse on her family and how it came to pass.
This novel combines historical fiction with mysticism and a biological thriller. Parts of the story reminded me of Kim Stanley Robinson's Science in the Capital series. I enjoyed the journey of Anastasia the most. I did like that the main characters were not bulletproof, well mostly. Fans of eco-thrillers and mysterious events will find a lot to enjoy here.
An odd convergence of events came as I read this novel. I started getting sick. It is hard to read about the Spanish Flu when you are coming down with something. It is hard not to let a few strange fears creep into my mind. That coincidence definitely impacted my ability to relax and enjoy the novel, but my sickness shouldn't keep others away.