The fate of Mother Russia ups the ante for Berry’s formula: historically based international intrigue, swashbuckling action, indestructible hero from the American South (The Amber Room, 2003).
Now that they’ve tried Bolshevism, Communism, the New World Order, and de facto rule by the mafiya, the Russians are ready for—what else?—a new tsar. Miles Lord has been sent to Moscow with Taylor Hayes, a senior partner from his Atlanta law firm, to serve as a member of the commission charged with picking the best candidate and to confirm the Romanov credentials of Stefan Baklanov. An assassination attempt doesn’t alert Lord to the danger that obviously awaits him, but the same two functionaries keep on trying to kill him so often, and with such a uniform lack of success, that eventually he realizes his problems run deeper than Russians’ suspicious condescension toward African-Americans. What he doesn’t realize is that Hayes is in on the plot to catapult Baklanov over the competition by bribing the commission members, insuring his own secret cabal’s control over the pliant new tsar. After calling Hayes to report every failed attempt on his life, Lord finally picks up the trail of a story so big he can’t even phone home to discuss it: the existence of a direct descendant of Nicholas II, a son of one of the tsar’s children whose bones were missing from the collective 1991 exhumation because the family wasn’t all killed in Ekaterinburg after all. Joining forces with a lovely Russian acrobat—fated, according to the murdered Gregorii Rasputin’s prophecy, to become his partner in the search—Lord takes off on a wild hunt for the true heir, pursued closely by the same ineffectual killers. The sanguinary finale, in which Hayes exhorts his hapless henchmen to “do what you do best,” is not to be missed.
History remade as action screenplay. You can smell the popcorn.