The Romanov Cross by Robert Masello

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, 15797005Slater 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. – Goodreads.com

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.

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