Eye of the Red Tsar

Written by Sam Eastland
Review by Bruce Macbain

This debut novel of intrigue centers on the execution of Tsar Nicholas and his family by the Bolsheviks in 1918. The hero is Pekkala, a stoical Finn with unbending principles and a photographic memory, who, prior to the revolution, is chosen by the tsar to be his chief counter-terrorist agent under the sobriquet “The Emerald Eye.”

The story unfolds in two parallel narratives. One is a series of flashbacks recounting Pekkala’s rise and fall (after the revolution the Soviets send him to a Siberian labor camp where he is tortured by a young Commissar Stalin). The second narrative finds him released from the camp and enlisted by the Soviet secret police to help them discover what really happened to the Romanovs and their fabled treasure.

Unfortunately, the novel’s solution requires some major rewrites of history. The author’s version of the execution diverges widely from all the known evidence; “historical” characters are freely invented while real figures such as Yakov Yurovsky, who commanded the firing squad, or Pavel Medvedev, who later wrote an account of his participation, are never mentioned. If read uncritically, the novel is passable and Pekkala holds promise as an interesting character in subsequent installments, but factual errors and improbabilities were too much for this reviewer’s taste.