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Another fictional version of the (supposedly factual) April, 1918 attempt to rescue the Tsar and his family from their Siberian doom--this time casting the mysterious would-be rescuer as an English cousin of the Romanovs, Charles Aldonby. In 1913, 20-year-old Charles visits the Rornanovs, falling in hopeless love with Princess Marie. Five years later he's a restless, wounded Great War veteran in England--furious when he learns that the British government (for various political/military reasons) has no intention of answering an S.O.S. missive from the Empress Alexandra. So Charles vows to lead a private rescue-mission himself--with White Russian henchmen, White Russian money, and a hired Norwegian seaman to captain the Siberia-bound ship. Thanks to Bolshevik spies among the White Russian expatriates, however (including a maid who seduces the Norwegian), the first plan fizzles: the ship is blown up before it leaves harbor; the rescue-fund is stolen. Still, after knocking off one of the spies, Aldonby and his oddly loyal Norwegian come up with a new scheme: they and their four henchmen will disguise themselves as Russian POWs being returned to Russia from the west (with a little help from ""Dickie"" Mountbatten). Thus entering Russia at Archangel, the six saboteurs then steal a Russian gunboat, speeding eastward across the Barents Sea; landing fairly near Tobolsk (where the Romanovs are being held), they commandeer a train, Aldonby posing--with implausible ease--as a special Commissar from Moscow. And so the rescue-team reaches the Romanovs, manages to wangle their release--but, slowed down by the illness of Tsarevitch Alexei, the fugitives are recaptured by the pursuing Red Guards. (An epilogue suggests that Aldonbury, who disappears in the final violence, somehow becomes a top Soviet leader in disguise, ""a figure from a lost world who has found a way to avenge the murder of his beloved."") Filled out, to no great purpose, with diary-entries by Princess Anastasia and Kremlin power-struggles in the Kerensky-to-Lenin transition: competent, scenic derring-do from the author of The Salisbury Manuscript and See Hove They Run--but without the rich characterization and period atmosphere that have given extra punch to other Romanovs-in-Siberia ""factions.

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1984
Publisher: Beaufort