The Romanov Cross: A Novel

The Romanov Cross: A Novel

4.4 19
by Robert Masello

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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


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.
The Romanov Cross is at once an alternate take on one of history’s most profound mysteries, a love story as unlikely as it is inevitable, and a thriller of heart-stopping, supernatural suspense. With his signature blend of fascinating history and fantastic imagination, critically acclaimed author Robert Masello has once again crafted a terrifying story of past events coming back to haunt the present day . . . and of dark deeds aching to be unearthed.

Praise for The Romanov Cross
“In this fascinating, funny, and frightening supernatural thriller, [Robert] Masello skillfully weaves together the story of the deaths of the Russian royal family with the possibility of a new worldwide influenza pandemic. . . . Toss in a pack of slavering wolves, the undead, and a chilling ending, and the result is a terrific, can’t-put-it-down read. Fine prose and plotting help solidify Masello’s position at the top of this crowded subgenre.”—Publishers Weekly
“A former Army epidemiologist contends with greedy locals and the harsh Alaskan terrain in order to prevent the recurrence of a deadly pandemic. . . . Masello weaves several disparate genres—medical thriller, historical novel, ghost story—into a coherent whole. A delicious sense of creeping dread permeates the first act, greatly enhanced by its setting in the stark but beautiful landscape of northwestern Alaska. . . . Tense, taut and impossible to put down.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this fascinating, funny, and frightening supernatural thriller, Masello (Blood and Ice) skillfully weaves together the story of the deaths of the Russian royal family with the possibility of a new worldwide influenza pandemic. St. Peter’s, a small island off the coast of Alaska’s Seward Peninsula, was once the home of a tiny community of followers of Rasputin, the notorious Russian monk. St. Peter’s sole living inhabitant, if living is the right word, is a Romanov—the recipient of a blessing from Rasputin, or maybe it was a curse. The island’s graveyard contains victims of the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918. Global warming is now heaving the coffins to the surface and into the sea. Field epidemiologist Maj. Frank Slater and his team journey to St. Peter’s to see if any of the original flu virus is still a danger to humanity. The inhabitants of the nearby town of Port Orlov play key roles in the action—in particular the fetching mayor, Nika Tincook, and the local ne’er-do-wells, Harley Vane and his wheelchair-bound brother, Charlie, whose petty criminal deeds threaten the world. Toss in a pack of slavering wolves, the undead, and a chilling ending, and the result is a terrific, can’t-put-it-down read. Fine prose and plotting help solidify Masello’s position at the top of this crowded subgenre. Agent: Cynthia Manson, Cynthia Manson Literary. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
“In this fascinating, funny, and frightening supernatural thriller, [Robert] Masello skillfully weaves together the story of the deaths of the Russian royal family with the possibility of a new worldwide influenza pandemic. . . . Toss in a pack of slavering wolves, the undead, and a chilling ending, and the result is a terrific, can’t-put-it-down read. Fine prose and plotting help solidify Masello’s position at the top of this crowded subgenre.”—Publishers Weekly
“A former Army epidemiologist contends with greedy locals and the harsh Alaskan terrain in order to prevent the recurrence of a deadly pandemic. . . . Masello weaves several disparate genres—medical thriller, historical novel, ghost story—into a coherent whole. A delicious sense of creeping dread permeates the first act, greatly enhanced by its setting in the stark but beautiful landscape of northwestern Alaska. . . . Tense, taut and impossible to put down.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“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. All these elements shouldn’t work together, but they do. The Romanov Cross holds readers’ attention from the beginning to the very end.”—Associated Press
The Romanov Cross is a rare book where the story will have you thinking long after you have finished reading. Masello has combined the history and mythic lore of the Romanov dynasty with the greatest health scourge of the twentieth century, coupled with a story that could have been taken out of today’s headlines. He weaved these elements into an edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting, suspense thriller.”—Suspense Magazine (5 stars)
“Compelling . . . The book grabbed me from the start and never really let go. . . . If you are looking for a good thriller with overtones of the end of the world then this one certainly has enough to keep you glued to your seat.”—The Big Thrill
“The perfect story to keep you turning pages through the end of winter . . . Russian political myth, modern epidemiology and the enduring human traits of heroism, greed, devotion to cause and sincere affection come together to make a terrifically intriguing and quickly evolving thriller. . . . Scene by scene, chapter by chapter, this book rushes along.”—The Dallas Morning News
Kirkus Reviews
A former Army epidemiologist contends with greedy locals and the harsh Alaskan terrain in order to prevent the recurrence of a deadly pandemic. Army major and renowned epidemiologist Frank Slater was stunned to hear he wouldn't be serving any jail time after his conviction for punching a senior officer. The reason soon becomes clear: Right after his trial concludes, the chief of pathology at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology tells him he must select a top-notch team and report immediately to a graveyard in an abandoned Russian colony on a remote island in the middle of the Bering Strait. The graveyard is full of the frozen and thus still potentially infected remains of victims of the Spanish flu that killed millions in 1918. During a recent shipwreck near the island, crabber Harley Vane was saved by clinging to the lid of a coffin he'd just caught in his net, leading the authorities to believe that one or more of the graves had been compromised. But while Slater and his team are making their way to Alaska, Vane is directed by his wheelchair-bound brother, Charlie, to return to the island to see if there is any more loot to match the striking emerald-studded silver cross Vane found in the coffin that saved his life. Little do the Vane brothers know that if the graves are disturbed, a deadly pandemic might be unleashed upon the world. Interposed with the present-day narrative is the story of Anastasia Romanov--the daughter of the ill-fated last czar of Russia, who was given the emerald cross, along with a strange prophecy, by Rasputin himself--who managed to escape the slaughter of her family. Masello (The Medusa Amulet, 2011, etc.) weaves several disparate genres--medical thriller, historical novel, ghost story--into a coherent whole. A delicious sense of creeping dread permeates the first act, greatly enhanced by its setting in the stark but beautiful landscape of northwestern Alaska. While the novel builds to a tense climax, the final act drags just a hair, but the payoff is an extremely satisfying conclusion. Tense, taut and impossible to put down.

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Part One

Chapter 1

Khan Neshin

Helmand Province, Afghanistan, July 10, 2011

“You okay, Major?”

Slater knew what he looked like, and he knew why Sergeant Groves was asking. He had taken a fistful of pills that morning, but the fever was back. He put out a hand to steady himself, then yanked it back off the hood of the jeep. The metal was as hot as a stove.

“I’ll survive,” he said, rubbing the tips of his fingers against his camo pants. That morning, he had visited the Marine barracks and watched as two more men had been airlifted out, both of them at death’s door; he wasn’t sure they’d make it. Despite all the normal precautions, the malaria, which he’d contracted himself a year before on a mission to Darfur, had decimated this camp. As a U.S. Army doctor and field epidemiologist, Major Frank Slater had been dispatched to figure out what else could be done—­and fast.

The rice paddies he was looking at now were a prime breeding ground for the deadly mosquitoes, and the base had been built not only too close by, but directly downwind. At night, when they liked to feed, swarms of insects lifted off the paddies and descended en masse on the barracks and the canteen and the guard towers. Once, in the Euphrates Valley, Slater had seen a cloud of bugs rising so thick and high in the sky that he’d mistaken it for an oncoming storm.

“So, which way do you want to go with this?” Sergeant Groves asked. An African-­American as tough and uncompromising as the Cleveland streets that he hailed from—­“by the time I left, all we were making there was icicles,” he’d once told Slater—­he always spoke with purpose and brevity. “Spray the swamp or move the base?”

Slater was debating that very thing when he was distracted by a pair of travelers—­a young girl, maybe nine or ten, and her father—­slogging through the paddy with an overburdened mule. Nearly every- one in Afghanistan had been exposed to malaria—­it was as common as the flu in the rest of the world—­and over the generations they had either died or developed a rudimentary immunity. They often got sick, but they had learned to live with it.

The young Americans, on the other hand, fresh from farms in Wisconsin and mountain towns in Colorado, didn’t fare as well.

The girl was leading the mule, while her father steadied the huge baskets of grain thrown across its scrawny back.

“I’m on it,” Private Diaz said, stepping out from the driver’s seat of the jeep. His M4 was already cradled in his hands. One thing the soldiers learned fast in the Middle East was that even the most innocuous sight could be their last. Baskets could carry explosives. Mules could be time bombs. Even kids could be used as decoys, or sacrificed altogether by the jihadis. On a previous mission, Slater had had to sort through the rubble of a girls’ school in Kandahar province after a Taliban, working undercover as a school custodian, had driven a motorcycle festooned with explosives straight into the classroom.

“Allahu Akbar!” the janitor had shouted with jubilation, “God is great!” just before blowing them all to kingdom come.

For the past ten years, Slater had seen death, in one form or another, nearly every day, but he still wasn’t sure which was worse—­the fact that it could still shock him or the fact that on most days it didn’t. Just how hard, he often wondered, could a man let his heart become? How hard did it need to be?

The girl was looking back at him now with big dark eyes under her headscarf as she led the mule out of the paddy and up onto the embankment. The father switched at its rump with a hollow reed. The private, his rifle slung forward, ordered them to stop where they were. His Arabic was pretty basic, but the hand gesture and the loaded gun were universally understood.

Slater and Groves—­his right-­hand man on every mission he had undertaken from Iraq to Somalia—­watched as Private Diaz approached them.

“Open the baskets,” he said, making a motion with one hand to indicate what he wanted. The father issued an order to his daughter, who flipped the lid off one basket, then waited as the soldier peered inside.

“The other one, too,” Diaz said, stepping around the mule’s lowered head.

The girl did as he ordered, standing beside the basket as Diaz poked the muzzle of his gun into the grain.

And just as Slater was about to order him to let them move along—­was this any way to win hearts and minds?—­a bright ribbon of iridescent green shot up out of the basket, fast as a lightning bolt, and struck the girl on the face. She went down as if hit by a mallet, writhing on the ground, and the private jumped back in surprise.

“Jesus,” he was saying over and over as he pointed the rifle futilely at the thrashing body of the girl. “It’s a viper!”

But Slater already knew that, and even as her father was wailing in terror, he was racing to her side. The snake still had its fangs buried in her cheek, secreting its venom, its tail shaking ferociously. Slater pulled his field knife from its scabbard—­a knife he normally used to cut tissue samples from diseased cadavers—­and with the other hand grabbed for the viper’s tail. Twice he felt its rough mottled surface, strong as a steel pipe, slip through his fingers, but on the third try he held it taut and was able to slice through the vertebrae. Half of the snake came away with a spill of blood, but the head was still fixed in its mortal bite.

The girl’s eyes were shut and her limbs were flailing, and it was only after Groves used his own broad hands to hold her down that Slater was able to pinch the back of the dying viper’s head and pull the fangs loose. The snake’s tongue flicked like a whip, but the light in its yellow eyes was fading. Slater pinched harder until the tongue slowed and the eyes lost their luster altogether. He tossed the carcass down the embankment, and Diaz, for good measure, unleashed a burst of shots from his rifle that rolled the coils down into the murky water.

“Get me my kit!” Slater hollered, and Diaz ran to the jeep.

Groves—­as burly as a fullback but tender as a nurse—­was crouched over the girl, examining the wound. There were two long gashes in her cheek, bloody smears on her tawny skin. The venom, some of the most powerful in the animal kingdom, was already coursing through her veins.

Her father, wailing and praying aloud, rocked on his sandaled feet. Even the mule brayed in dumb alarm.

Diaz handed Slater the kit, already open, and Slater, his hands moving on automatic pilot, went about administering the anticoagulant and doing his best to stabilize her, but he knew that only the antivenin, in short supply these days, could save the girl’s life.

And even then, only if it was used in the next hour.

“Round up the nearest chopper,” he said to Diaz. “We need to get this girl to the med center.”

But the soldier hesitated. “No offense, sir, but orders are that the med runs are only for military casualties. They won’t come for a civilian.”

Groves looked over at Slater with mournful eyes and said, “He’s right. Ever since that chopper was shot down three days ago, the orders have been ironclad. EMS duties are out.”

Slater heard them, but wondered if they were really prepared to stand by and let the girl die. Her father was screaming the few words of English he knew, “Help! U.S.A! Please, help!” He was on his knees in the dust, wringing his woven cap in his hands.

Her little heart was beating like a trip-­hammer and her limbs were convulsing, and Slater knew that any further delay would seal the girl’s fate forever. Someone this size and weight, injected with a full dose of a pit viper’s poison—­and he had seen enough of these snakes to know that this one had been fully mature—­could not last long before her blood cells began to disintegrate.

“Keep her as still as you can,” he said to Groves and Diaz, then ran back to the jeep, grabbed the radio mike and called it in to the main base.

“Marine down!” Slater said, “viper bite. Immediate—­I say, immediate—­evac needed!”

He saw Groves and the private exchange a glance.

“Your coordinates?” a voice on the radio crackled.

The coordinates? Slater, the blood pounding in his head from his own fever, fumbled to muster them. “We’re about two klicks from the Khan Neshin outpost,” he said, focusing as hard as he could, “just southwest of the rice paddies.”

Groves suddenly appeared at his side and grabbed the mike out of his hands, but instead of countermanding the major’s order, he gave the exact coordinates.

“Tell ’em they can finish the rations dump later,” Groves barked. “We need that chopper over here now! And tell the med center to get as much of the antivenin ready as they’ve got!”

Slater, his legs unsteady, crouched down in the shade of the jeep.

“You didn’t need to get mixed up in this,” Slater said after Groves signed off. “I’ll take the heat.”

“Don’t worry,” Groves said. “There’ll be plenty to go around.”

For the next half hour, Slater kept the girl as tranquilized as he could—­the more she thrashed, the faster the poison circulated in her system—­while the sergeant and the private kept a close watch on the neighboring fields. Taliban fighters were drawn to trouble like sharks to blood, and if they suspected a chopper was going to be flying in, they’d be scrambling through their stockpiles for one last Stinger missile. Nor did Slater want to go back to the outpost and ask for backup; somebody might see what was really going on and cancel the mission.

“I hear it!” Groves said, turning toward a low rise of scrubby hills.

So could Slater. The thrumming of its rotors preceded by only seconds the sight of the Black Hawk itself, soaring over the ridgeline. After doing a quick reconnaissance loop, the pilot put the chopper down a dozen yards from the jeep, its blades still spinning, its engine churning. The side hatch slid open, and two grunts with a stretcher leapt out into the cloud of dust.

“Where?” one shouted, wiping the whirling dirt from his goggles.

Diaz pointed to the girl lying low on the embankment between Slater and the sergeant.

The two soldiers stopped in their tracks, and over the loud rumble of the idling helicopter, one shouted, “A civilian?”

The other said, “Combat casualties only! Strict orders.”

“That’s right,” Slater said, tapping the major’s oak leaf cluster on his shirt, “and I’m giving them here! This girl is going to the med center, and she’s going now!”

The first soldier hesitated, still unsure, but the second one laid his end of the stretcher on the ground at her feet. “I’ve got a daughter back home,” he mumbled, as he wrapped the girl in a poncho liner, then helped Groves to lift her onto the canvas.

“I’m taking full responsibility,” Slater said. “Let’s move!”

But when the girl’s father tried to climb into the chopper, the pilot shook his head violently and waved his hand. “No can do!” he shouted. “We’re carrying too much weight already.”

Slater had to push the man away; there wasn’t time to explain. “Tell him what’s going on!” he shouted to the sergeant.

The father was screaming and crying—­Diaz was trying to restrain him—­as Slater slid the hatch shut and banged on the back of the pilot’s seat. “Okay, go, go, go!”

To evade possible fire, the chopper banked steeply to one side on takeoff, then zigzagged away from the rice paddies; these irrigated areas, called the green zone, were some of the deadliest terrain in Afghanistan, havens for snipers and insurgents. Slater heard a quick clattering on the bottom of the Black Hawk, a sound like typewriter keys clicking, and knew that at least one Taliban fighter had managed to get off a few rounds. The helicopter flew higher, soaring up and over the barren red hills, where the rusted carcasses of Soviet troop carriers could be seen half-­buried in the dirt and sand. Now it would just be a race against time. The girl’s face was swollen up like she had the mumps, and Slater slipped the oxygen mask onto her as gently as he could. Her ears were like perfect little shells, he thought, as he looped the straps around the back of her head. She took no notice of what was being done, or where she was. She was delirious with the pain and the shock and the natural adrenaline that her body was instinctively pumping through her veins nonstop.

The soldiers stayed clear, strapped into their seats beside the ration pallets they’d been delivering and watching silently as Major Slater treated her. The one with the daughter looked like he was saying a prayer under his breath. But this little Afghan girl was Slater’s problem now, and they all knew it.

By the time the chopper cleared the med center perimeter and touched down, her eyes had shut, and when Slater lifted the lids, all he could see was the whites. Her limbs were pretty still, only occasionally rocked by sudden paroxysms as if jolts of electricity were shooting through her. Slater knew the signs weren’t good. It would have been different if he’d had the antivenin with him in the field, but it was costly stuff, in short supply, and it deteriorated rapidly if it wasn’t kept refrigerated.

Some of the staff at the med center looked surprised at the new admission—­a local girl, when they’d been expecting a Marine—­but Slater issued his orders with such conviction that not a second was lost. Covered with dirt and sweat, his fingers stained with snake blood, he was still clutching her limp hand as she was wheeled into the O.R., where the trauma team was ready with the IV lines.

“Careful when you insert those,” Slater warned. “The entry points are going to seep from the venom.”

“Major,” the surgeon said, calmly, “we know what we’re doing. We can take it from here.”

But when he tried to let go, the girl’s fingers feebly squeezed his own. Maybe she thought it was her dad.

“Hang in there, honey,” Slater said softly, though he doubted she could hear, or understand, him. “Don’t give up.” He extricated his fingers, and a nurse quickly brushed him aside so that she could get at the wound and sterilize the site. The surgeon took a syringe filled with the antivenin, held it up to the light, and expressed the air from the plunger.

Slater, knowing that he was simply in the way now, stepped outside and watched through the porthole in the swinging doors. The doctor and two nurses went through their paces with methodical precision and speed. But Slater was afraid that too much time had passed since the attack.

A shiver hit him, and he slumped into a crouch by the doors. This was the worst recurrence of the malaria he’d had in months, and the sudden blast of air-­conditioning made him long for a blanket. But if he let on how bad it was, he could find himself restricted to desk duty in Washington—­a fate he feared worse than death. He just needed to get back to his bunk, swallow some meds, and sweat it out for a day or two. The blood was beating in his temples like a drum.

And it got no better when he heard the voice of his commanding officer, Colonel Keener, bellowing from down the hall. “Did you call in this mission, Major Slater?”

“I did.”

“You did, sir.” Keener corrected him, glancing at a printout in his hand. “And you claimed this was a Marine? A Marine casualty?”

“I did,” he replied, “sir.”

“And you’re aware that we’re not an ambulance service? That you diverted a Black Hawk from its scheduled, combat-­related run, to address a strictly civilian matter?” His frustration became more evident with every word he spoke. “Maybe you didn’t read the advisory—­the one that was issued to all base personnel just two days ago?”

“Every word.”

Slater knew his attitude wasn’t helping his case, but he didn’t care. Truth be told, he hadn’t cared about protocols and orders and commands for years. He’d become a doctor so that he could save lives, pure and simple; he’d become an epidemiologist so that he could save thousands of lives, in some of the world’s worst places. But today, he was back to trying to save just one.

Just one little girl, with perfect little ears. And a father, off somewhere in Khan Neshin, no doubt begging Allah for a miracle . . . a miracle that wasn’t likely to be granted.

“You know, of course, that I will have to report this incident, and the AFIP is going to have to send out another staffer now to decide what to do about our malaria problem,” the colonel was saying. “That could take days, and cost us American lives.” He said the word “American” in such a way as to make it plain that they were all that counted in this world. “You may consider yourself off duty and restricted to the base, Doctor, until further notice. In case you don’t know it, you’re in some very deep shit.”

Slater had hardly needed to be told. While Keener stood there fuming, wondering what other threat he could issue, the major fished in his pocket for the Chloriquine tablets he was taking every few hours. He tried to swallow them dry, but his mouth was too parched. Brushing past the colonel, he staggered to the water fountain, got the pills down, then held his head under the arc of cool water. His scalp felt like a forest fire that was finally getting hosed down.

The surgeon came out of the O.R., looked at each one of them, then went to the colonel’s side and said something softly in his ear. The colonel nodded solemnly, and the surgeon ducked back inside the swinging doors.

“What?” Slater said, pressing his fingertips into his wet scalp. The water was running down the back of his neck.

“It looks like you blew your career for nothing,” Keener replied. “The girl just died.”

All that Slater remembered, later on, was the look on the colonel’s face—­the look he’d seen on a hundred other official faces intent only on following orders—­before he threw the punch that knocked the colonel off his feet. He also had a vague recollection of wobbling above him, as Keener lay there, stunned and speechless, on the grimy green linoleum.

But the actual punch, which must have been a haymaker, was a mystery.

Then he returned to the fountain and put his head back down under the spray. If there were tears still in him, he thought, he’d be shedding them now. But there weren’t any. They had dried up years ago.

From the far end of the hall, he could hear the sound of raised voices and running boots as the MPs rushed to arrest him.

Meet the Author

Robert Masello is an award-winning journalist, a television writer, and the author of many books, including the supernatural thrillers The Medusa Amulet, Blood and Ice, Vigil (a USA Today bestseller), and Bestiary. His articles and essays have appeared in such publications as the Los Angeles Times, New York magazine, People, and Parade, and his nonfiction book Robert’s Rules of Writing has become a staple in many college classrooms. His television credits include such popular shows as Charmed, Sliders, and Early Edition. A long-standing member of the Writers Guild of America, Masello lives in Santa Monica, California.

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The Romanov Cross: A Novel 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And to think I almost passed this one up! It is moving, scary, romantic and intellectual, all at once. Don't miss this book!
tpolen More than 1 year ago
This is the first book I've read by this author, but I can guarantee it won't be the last. I started this book while waiting for my son at a doctor's appointment and had read 100 pages by the time he was finished. Throw in a pandemic, supernatural elements, and some interesting history and I'm good for at least a few hours. Vague memories from high school history about the Romanov family were stirring around in my brain and I had to reacquaint myself with them. Despite longstanding rumors Anastasia Romanov had actually survived the killing of her family, it was proven a few years back that she had, in fact, died along with them. This story offered a very creative alternate view on what might have happened to Anastasia had she survived. I liked that the author told Anastasia's story, as well as two other present day stories happening concurrently. Court martialed and dishonorably discharged Frank Slater was a guy who, no matter the consequences, just wanted to do the right thing. And you had to admire him for it. He was a strong MC and his character development was fantastic - you couldn't help but like the guy and feel for him. The pacing of the story kept me interested throughout - there was no good 'stopping place' - and the setting made for some great tension. I'd have to say my least favorite part of the book was the treasure hunter brothers. When you have two brothers named Harley and Charlie, how can you take them seriously? They seemed a little stereotypical and unbelievable in some of the things they were able to pull off. Overall, this was a great book I'd recommend. The combination of two historical topics, the Spanish flu epidemic and the Romanov family, brought into a modern-day plot made for a highly interesting read.
druidgirl More than 1 year ago
This is a story within a story, it begins in 1918 with the arrival of Grand Duchess Anastasia on St Peter Island in Alaska unknowingly carrying a disease that would eventually kill all. It then continues to present day with Dr Frank Slater and his teams trying to determine if the Spanish Flu is still viable. This is a story filled with history,chaos,paranormal,death,investigation and of course a little romance. I enjoyed this book immensely
Teritree001971at More than 1 year ago
THE ROMANOV CROSS is the first book I've read by this author I'm sorry to say. Taking place against fictional Alaska settings and involving Russian history, the author takes his readers on a journey through time and along the way introduces us to some Native American beliefs, romance, the Spanish flu and it's devastation, not to mention poses a solution to where the royal Romanov family ended up. One of the best things about the story, is that it introduces a little of US history, by telling how Alaska and parts of the west were acquired from Russia. When you finish the story, you look up and are surprised to find that time has passed without you realising it, leaving you wanting more. Thanks to the little mouse and eagle at the end, it gives the reader hope of seeing more of what happens in the modern day when the world is faced with a pandemic in this authors mind.
lsmeadows More than 1 year ago
If you like action/suspense blended with historical fiction, read this! Ever since the DaVinci Code came out, and I saw the movie National Treasure, I have been fascinated by stories that blend action/suspense with a strong historical base. The Romanov Cross by Robert Masello takes this even a bit further and actually tells two distinct stories. The first is the story of government epidemiologist Frank Slater, who has been tasked through out his career with doing research in the worst places that the U.S. Government can send him. His current assignment is no different as he is sent to a small, isolated island off the coast of Alaska to research a colony that was completely annihilated by the Spanish flu. I found this story to be an adventure tale of the best kind, complete with treasure hunters, colorful local characters, a bit of local Inuit lore, and a race against an enemy buried for over 100 years in the frozen turf.  The characters in this first story were engaging from Frank Slater and his team, all the way to the treasure hunters and their families. I actually felt quite a bit of empathy for Harley, mostly due to the huge impact his decision to pull up the coffin from the sea had on his life. I wondered if he would have done things differently if he could do a "do over". My favorite characters, though, were the members of Frank Slater's team, especially Frank, Nika, and Professor Kozak.  The first story would have kept me turning pages and gotten high reviews, even if it was presented by itself, but this book had a bonus. That bonus was a second story centered around the end of the Romanov Dynasty, and the age old controversy of whether Anastasia Romanov was killed with her family or escaped. Masello takes this myth and wraps it up in a love story between Ana and a young Bolshevik guard who is give the job of guarding her. Here again, he weaves a wonderful story that could stand on its own perfectly, and is, for the most part, perfectly believable.  Blending two stories, as was done here, can be a hit or a miss, but in the case of this book and with the skill of this author, it is definitely a hit. In addition to enjoying both stories, I really enjoyed the way that Masello was able to weave them together with such smoothness and ease. The only part of the story that I didn't feel was necessary was the supernatural element. It's not that it didn't fit, or that it wasn't well presented. It did not detract from the overall story one bit. I just felt that the two stories were excellent by themselves and that the supernatural element was unnecessary.  I have heard others talk about how the ending was a transparent set up for a sequel. Whether a sequel is written or not, I found the ending suitable prophetic and thought provoking. As such, I felt it was perfectly legitimate.  I am actually a bit surprised that this author has not been on my radar before now since I really enjoy reading books of this type and have read several by Steve Berry and Brad Meltzer, along with everything Dan Brown has written. He is definitely on my radar now, though, and I plan to read the other books that he has written.  A big thanks to Netgalley and Random House for furnishing me with a Unproofed copy of this book to read and review.
Books4Tomorrow More than 1 year ago
When last have you read a book where the ending…no, the entire story, left you floating on an exhilarating high? When last have you read something that made you feel breathless from all the adrenaline shooting through your body after experiencing scene after scene of explosive, nail-biting action? If your answer is “not for some time”, then go get your copy of The Romanov Cross by Robert Masello and settle in for the long haul. Boys and girls, this book will keep you lost in its pages for hours!  I don’t even know where to begin to tell you how amazing and what an absolutely worthwhile read this book is. A devastating flu epidemic, an emerald cross surrounded by mystery, a ghost on a deserted island, the unforgiving Alaskan backdrop, a religious sect devoted to Grigori Rasputin, modern technology, and old graves desecrated for scientific purposes in a race against time to save present day civilization from the possible recurrence of the Spanish flu virus of 1918…all of this is only the proverbial tip of the ice berg. The Romanov Cross has layer upon layer upon layer of secrets and reveals, and one shocking discovery after the other. The best part about this whole book is that it never has a dull moment. It moves at a breakneck pace and is loaded with interesting facts and spot-on historical information. One thing that was clear as day is how superbly the author did his research for this book; and all the chapters taking the reader back to the early nineteenth century were so believably realistic, it felt as though these characters could still be alive today. To be quite honest, I’m not into historical fiction and I don’t know much about history other for that which I was taught at school many moons ago. But face it. Everyone knows who Rasputin is, right? Even if every time he is mentioned in this book the song titled, Rasputin, by Germany hit group Boney-M starts playing in your head. The author really brought Rasputin and the Romanov family back to life in an utterly realistic way. The author did a magnificent job on taking the rumor about Anastacia surviving her family’s execution in 1918 and giving it a paranormal and twisted spin to fit in with a modern day storyline. No, no, he didn’t turn Ana into a vampire. That would’ve been too cliché and predictable. He did something far better with her character, and a lot more mysterious and awe-inspiring.   This is one of the rare books where I gained so much historical knowledge (which got me so interested in the Romanov legacy I found myself clicking over to Google to get more background on these royals) and learned some interesting things about the Inuit ways and their superstitions. The author expertly blends a multitude of characters, each with their own background story, to build an unforgettable masterpiece where nothing is what it seems. The story is told from Anastasia’s point of view in early in nineteenth century, Charlie and Harley Vane – the two scumbag, yet interesting and endearing, treasure hunters, and Dr Frank Slater the epidemiologist’s point of view.  If all historical fiction books are as interesting and well-written as The Romanov Cross, I can definitely see myself reading more of this genre. And I’m sure as heck going to read more books by this author. His attention to detail is superb, and without any lengthy explanations he builds the backgrounds in which the different scenes take place, and then places the reader smack-dab in the middle of it. Although there are quite a lot of characters in this story, it is not confusing as the author smoothly transitions between scenes. Whether you’re a history buff or not, this book has something for every reader. If you’re more into action, adventure, thrills and chills, then this very engaging, brilliant read is without a doubt also for you!   I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous 19 hours ago
What a great book! I couldn't put it down. I've had a fascination with the Romanov for years. The way the story is intertwined with current events is absolutely fantastic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book
Lily_F More than 1 year ago
After reading this novel, I promptly added a couple more of this author`s books on my to read list. This was a great and intriguing adventure told from different POVs that actually brought this novel to a whole new level. Not only told from different character`s points of view, but also in different times. And how can you go wrong with a mystery involving such a mysterious character as Rasputin and the Romanov family conspiracy. The author takes creative liberties with the retelling of their story, especially what happens to Anastasia, daughter of Tsar Nicolas II, the last sovereign of Imperial Russia, who was rumored to have escaped her family`s execution in 1918. In this novel, Rasputin is claimed to have had a mystical and spiritual connection with Anastasia, and passed a relic he wore - a cross elaborately decorated with emeralds - to Anastasia prior to his assassination, which she kept hidden on her person, and was hinted throughout the book as possibly protecting Anastasia as it may have protected Rasputin in life. Combine this with a desolate and `cursed`island off the Alaskan coast where a mysterious coffin originates from, the threat of Spanish flu escaping into modern population and potentially causing another devastating epidemic, and an epidemiologist racing against time to study it and prevent the devastation from happening, and you have an amazing thriller that will keep you not only on your toes, but on the edge of your seat. Not only was Robert Masello able to bring all of these different characters to life, both past and present but he was also able to create an amazing connection from past to present events with some amazing and unforeseen twists. It was an intricately written and magical novel that was truly hard to put down. It also made me curious to read up more on Rasputin and the Romanov family once I reached the end of this novel. I am really looking forward to reading more from this author and I am glad that I had the opportunity to discover him through Netgalley.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
gregs More than 1 year ago
Just started the book, I am a very avid reader having two or three books going at one time. I just finished Rollins latest book and dove into "The Romanov Cross". I might get into my reading a bit to much....but Mr. Masello hit a bump in the road right at the start. Having as many of have, watched to much of "the Deadliest Catch" know that the king crab boats don't usually "have nets, lines, hooks" . I know I might be "nit-picking" and don't want to ruin what I know is going to be a GREAT READ. Not to give anything away this little bump in a very important facet does hurt a little in the read. "I live to read and read to live" so please forgive me for being so "technical" getting it right makes a good book great. Given these thoughts I am falling into the pages wanting more as I did a little research into the Spanish Flu.....should we worry??????
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was my introduction to Robert Massello. Loved it! Agree that both storylines are intriguing. Highly recommend it.
janett0 More than 1 year ago
Anastasia supernatural in legend to some, is present through the mists and dangers of time. Once again criminal minds think of her wealth the royal treasure; when they gain knowledge of the scientist’s mission. Their actions leave them without protection as terrifying dangers evolve from the cunning guardian wolves. Kozak and Slater fellow scientist’s research in Alaska, a world saturated with a deadly virus. Vicious wolves appear and scientists fight for their own lives. They are caught in the virus contamination that could lead to a disaster of epic proportions. Gripping suspense unfolds in each thrilling trial for their survival. I recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
sjthszn More than 1 year ago
I'm not usually a fan of historical fiction, but the Romanov Cross is a thoroughly enjoyable book.¿ The premise is interesting, and the historical aspect is woven very well into the story.¿ I will definitely look for more titles from Masello.¿ He kept this entertaining and very plausible, which is¿a scary thought considering it could wipe out large chunks of the world's population.¿ Very well written, hard to put down, and overall just a great book.
Cthulhu99 More than 1 year ago
Supernatural mystery,a story that jumps between a alternate 1918 Russia and modern day Alaska.Not as much action as his book Bestiary but still has good suspense to keep you reading.
M_ercy More than 1 year ago
Very interesting. Very sad take on the death of the Czar and his family. I really enjoyed reading this book. I hope you like it as much as I did.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lots going on in this novel. Flu pandemic, Romomov family intrigue, elements of ghost story ... couldn't put my Nook down.