Eye of the Red Tsar by Sam Eastland is a thriller sent to me as an advance review copy by Bantam Books through LibraryThing. Publication date: April 27, 2010.
This is the first novel about an intriguing character named Pekkala and I'm happy to report that Eastland is working on a second one to be published next year. It's been a long time since I've had a fictional character take up residence inside my head like Pekkala has, and I have a feeling he'll be there for a while. Normally I need to really like a character for that to happen. With Pekkala I can't decide if I like him or not, but I certainly respect him and I definitely care what happens to him. I need to know how his life continues.
This story is set in the time of Stalin with flashbacks to tell Pekkala's tragic life story. He is born in Finland, but eventually sent to Russia by his father to be in the Finnish Guard, the tsar's trusted regiment. Then he becomes Nicholas Romanov's chief detective, one of only two men the tsar can trust. During the revolution Pekkala is arrested and ends up a prisoner in Siberia. The story begins when he has been there, alone in the woods, for nine years. They had sent him there to die, but he has survived.
We all know the fate of the Romanov's, how they were murdered near Ekaterinburg and their bodies thrown down an abandoned mine shaft. People are always suspicious of conspiracies though, so through many years there were rumors that one or more of the children had survived. One German lady, I remember, claimed for years that she was Anastasia, the youngest daughter. This story picks up on those rumors and rumors also that the tsar had someone hide a great treasure before he was arrested.
At some times as I read the book I felt like it was too long, and yet I didn't want to miss a thing. Every time I thought I had things figured out, another twist in the story would send my mind off in another direction. Since the Cheka had sent Pekkala's estranged older brother to bring him out of Siberia, their personal hatred adds another interesting dimension. Motives are lurking in the shadows and it's difficult to tell what is true - until the end when most of it becomes clear. Pekkala makes a choice at the end that still puzzles me. I must read the second book.
I highly recommend this involved and involving book. I am an Amazon Associate.