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Pure escapist thriller only - don't look too deep!
on May 15, 2005
Communism has fallen and the Russian people, not convinced of the value of a western style democracy, have decided to return to the monarchy. A specially appointed commission is about to annoint a new Tsar, the most logical alternatives being the living relatives of the Romanov family executed by revolutionaries in 1917. The Russian Mafia and wealthy American business elements, including Taylor Hayes, senior partner of a major US law firm, are not about to let go of the reins of power in Russia and lose the position and wealth they've amassed. They'll do whatever is necessary to ensure that their puppet, Stefan Baklanov, is the candidate chosen by the commission to accede to the throne and have asked Miles Lord, an associate in Hayes' firm, to investigate Imperial Russian and early Communist historical records to ensure that Baklanov's claim is the best it can possibly be. When Miles' archival search begins to uncover evidence that might jeopardize the Mafia's plans for the outcome of the commission election, the proverbial thriller messy stuff hits the fan. Of course, the chase is on to eliminate Lord and make sure the evidence is destroyed!
At one point during his seach, Miles Lord was deep in thought in the stacks of a Russian archive library, examining some recently de-classified top secret papers. When he was interrupted by Semyon Pashenko, professor of history at Moscow University, he commented " ... I was back in 1916 for an instant. Reading this stuff is like time travel." How appropriate for Berry to put such a statement into the mouth of his hero. I completely agree - that's exactly what reading a historical thriller should be! The transition from meticulously researched background to speculation, then into fiction and full throttle thriller and back again should be completely seamless and effortless. From this viewpoint, The Romanov Prophecy succeeds reasonably well.
But, insofar as the modern thriller part of the novel is concern, Berry's efforts are pretty weak fare. The love interest, Akilina Petrovna, a circus gymnast Lord meets during a train sequence in one of the overly frequent chase scenes, is cute, cuddly and warm. But, what the heck, she's mandatory! Who would expect a novel like this to be without some version of a femme? Orleg and Droopy, the Russian Mafia thugs are perhaps intended to be comic in some fashion - who can forget Mr Wint and Mr Kidd from 007's "Diamonds are Forever" - but their hapless efforts to chase down Lord only get them recognition as "Dumb and Dumber". Character development in general is one-dimensional. In particular, Berry makes no attempt at all to explain why Lord and Petrovna were destined to fulfill the roles of the Raven and the Eagle in a multi-national achievement of a 100 year old prophesy babbled by Rasputin just before he died. We are left to merely wonder what happened to the Russian members of the power cartel after Thorn's ascension to the throne and Baklanov's failure in the commission's vote!
Don't go into this one with high expectations! If you're looking for a pure escapist thriller, you won't be disappointed - the scenes with the gorillas and the Russian borzoi hounds are pure Hollywood gone right over the top. Forget trying to find anything deeper - it just isn't there! Sit back, read, enjoy and have fun - don't think too hard about it.