Monday, February 20, 2006

Review: The Romanov Prophecy

The Romanov Prophecy by Steve Berry was originally published by Ballantine in hardcover in 2004, now out in paperback. I read this in several sittings spread over about ten days due to illness & the Olympics. An international espionage thriller, most of the action takes place in Europe although a gorilla at the San Francisco Zoo does make a cameo appearance.

Miles Lord, our hero, is an oddity in Russia- a black man. Miles has impressive political credentials. He is a member of the Tsarist Commission. You see, the Russian people have decided that the Tsars cannot be worse than their current leadership or that of the immediate past. Supposedly the Commission is to find the closest male genetic descendant of the Romanov family so he can be interviewed & installed on the throne. Unfortunately, the Commission has been infiltrated by a group of military, mafia & Western businesses. Their plan is to put a figurehead on the throne & subsequently control him.

Miles' job is to dig up relevant facts supporting the puppet's claim to the throne. Miles, however, is being duped and is too stupid to figure it all out until the very, very last second possible. Meanwhile, he slowly falls for Akilina Petrovna, a circus performer who manages to hide him from the mafia in her train car, after which she helps him in his search.

This is quite a page turner. Tightly plotted & chock full of Russian history, folklore & culture it is obvious Berry has done his homework thoroughly. I had a big problem believing a well educated, well traveled lawyer like Miles could be such an idiot for so long. Perhaps not to see the entire plot, but at least to be more suspicious, earlier. He doesn't even have the excuse that Akilina is distracting him. He's just not the brightest lawyer to see Moscow apparently.

Still, most of it wraps up well. All of the main characters are rounded, even the villains are given history & reasons why they have made certain choices. I found it amusing that Miles is black & Akilina is a pale blond with blue eyes. Not only that, Berry (the author) is white & Miles is black. Does a white author accurately portray a black man? A good yarn & well worth my time.

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