New book: The Romanov Cross, by Robert Masello ’74 (Bantam Books)
The author: A journalist, television writer, and author of both nonfiction and fiction books, Masello has written the supernatural thrillers The Medusa Amulet, Blood and Ice, Vigil, and Bestiary. His nonfiction book, Robert’s Rules of Writing, is used in many college classrooms.
The book: This page-turning novel combines a possible pandemic and the history of the Russian royal family. Army major and epidemiologist Frank Slater heads to a small island off the coast of Alaska where the permafrost has begun to melt and bodies of people who had been killed by the Spanish flu of 1918 lie. His job is to determine whether the thawed bodies are carrying the virus and could set off a pandemic. That island was at one time settled by a sect devoted to Rasputin, the infamous Russian monk, and has a connection to the fall of the Russian Romanov family.
Opening lines: “‘Sergie, do not die,’ the girl said, turning around in the open boat. ‘I forbid you to die.’ She had hoped, in vain, that her voice would not falter.
“When she tried to reach out to him, he pulled away, still holding on to the tiller with dead-white fingers.
“‘No, no,’ he said, drawing back in horror. ‘Don’t touch me.’ His eyes were wild, the stubble on his pale young cheeks flecked with blood and foam. ‘You have to sail there,’ he said, as he pointed with one trembling finger over the prow of the boat.”
Reviews: Publishers Weekly called the novel a “fascinating, funny, and frightening supernatural thriller.” Kirkus wrote: “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 manages to escape the slaughter of her family. Masello weaves several disparate genres — medical thriller, historical novel, ghost story — into a coherent whole.”