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Eye of the Red Tsar
Insp. Pekkala series, No 1
Sam Eastland, (aka Paul Watkins)

Bantam; Reprint edition
January 25, 2011/ ISBN 0553593234
Historical Suspense / Russia, 1929

Reviewed by L J Roberts

First Sentence: Through blood-dimmed eyes, the Tasr watched the man reload his gun.

Pekkala was once a highly respected, and feared, secret agent trusted by both the government and Tsar Nicholas Romanov. Now is a prisoner in Siberia with only his survival skills to keep him alive. Suddenly the Stalin and Mother Russia need him back. There is a rumor that one of the Romanov children survived the slaughter of the family. It is up to Pekkala to prove, or disprove, the rumor and to find the equally rumored Romanov treasure.

There’s nothing more enjoyable than a book with a gripping, dramatic opening. Eastland delivered.

The character of Pekkala could have come off as stereotypical superhero/super spy but that pitfall was neatly avoided by our being provided a fascinating and reflective history of his life which is interwoven throughout the story. From this, one has a greater depth of understanding and perspective on the protagonist than one is usually granted. Young Lt. Kirov is a wonderful balancing character with presence and confidence but the unusual background in that he was studying to be a chef. The building relationship between the two characters works very well. It was mentioned to be that they remind one of buddies from the Old Westerns.

There is excellent dialogue and delightful occasional humor. “Where will you go when you are free?” asked Kirov. “Paris,” he replied. “Why there?” “If you have to ask that question, you have never been to Paris….” Eastland uses descriptions of nature and weather very effectively—he paints visual pictures. He also provides an informative look at the period, good historical information and a very different view of Rasputin that was interesting.

There was never a moment where I considered putting this book down. There was a very good red herring followed by an interesting twist, capped by a tragic and dramatic climax, but the very end didn’t quite work for me, or at least, I didn’t quite believe it. Nor do I think we were meant to, but it makes a very good possible segue to a future story line. What I particularly liked was that the author didn’t take 400 pages to tell what really was a very good 200-page story.

Eastland definitely has a way about him and I am certainly looking forward to his next book.

Reviewed 2011
© 2011