Random House, 3/5/2013
Hardcover, 512 pages
Nearly one hundred years ago, a desperate young woman crawled ashore on a desolate arctic island, carrying a terrible secret and a mysterious, emerald-encrusted cross. A century later, acts of man, nature, and history converge on that same forbidding shore with a power sufficient to shatter civilization as we know it.
Army epidemiologist Frank Slater is facing a court-martial, but after his punishment is mysteriously lifted, Slater is offered a job no one else wants—to travel to a small island off the coast of Alaska and investigate a potentially lethal phenomenon: The permafrost has begun to melt, exposing bodies from a colony that was wiped out by the dreaded Spanish flu of 1918. Frank must determine if the thawed remains still carry the deadly virus in their frozen flesh and, if so, ensure that it doesn’t come back to life.
Frank and his handpicked team arrive by helicopter, loaded down with high-tech tools, prepared to exhume history. The colony, it transpires, was once settled by a sect devoted to the mad Russian monk Rasputin, but there is even more hiding in the past than Frank’s team is aware of. Any hope of success hinges on their willingness to accept the fact that even their cutting-edge science has its limits—and that the ancient wisdom of the Inuit people who once inhabited this eerie land is as essential as any serum. By the time Frank discovers that his mission has been compromised—crashed by a gang of reckless treasure hunters—he will be in a brutal race against time. With a young, strong-willed Inuit woman by his side, Frank must put a deadly genie back in the bottle before all of humanity pays the price.
In The Romanov Cross, author Robert Masello combines a historical mystery with the heart pounding action of a thriller. After facing military ramifications for his maverick behavior, Dr. Frank Slater is sent to the graveyard on St. Peter's Island in Alaska to see if he can isolate the 1918 flu virus from any remains and hopefully head off a flu pandemic. Unknown to him, however, is the existence of a treasure, an emerald encrusted cross, that is going to put treasure hunters on the same island and set into motion a devastating chain of events. The cross points to the survival of Anastasia Romanov, the youngest daughter of the last czar of Russia.
There is a lot going on in this novel, but the story lines are easy to follow and the action moves along at a brisk pace. While I could introduce more of the various characters and their plans, rest assured that this is a perfect summer read. The events may move along quickly, but the characters and their stories are all well developed. Masello brilliantly divulges just enough information as the novel unfolds to keep you engrossed in what will happen next.
While I enjoyed The Romanov Cross immensely, I kept thinking I had read it before, or certainly a novel that had some of the same components in its plot: Anastasia, Alaska (or Canada) and the 1918 flu and a present day doctor searching for victims buried in the permafrost. But a name or author didn't present themselves to my memory so perhaps I'm cobbling several other books that did come to mind together and thinking they were one book like The Romanov Cross. Does it matter? Probably not since these are all plot elements that have certainly been in more than one novel.
Very highly recommended - this one is for all the action/adventure junkies out there looking for a well written summer fix/thrill.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Random House via Netgalley for review purposes.