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Eye of the Red Tsar

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This riveting suspense debut introduces both a stellar new voice and a remarkable detective, an outsider who must use his extraordinary talents to solve the one case that may redeem him. Shortly after midnight on July 17, 1918, the imprisoned family of Tsar Nicholas Romanov was awakened and led down to the basement of the Ipatiev house. There they were summarily executed. T This riveting suspense debut introduces both a stellar new voice and a remarkable detective, an outsider who must use his extraordinary talents to solve the one case that may redeem him. Shortly after midnight on July 17, 1918, the imprisoned family of Tsar Nicholas Romanov was awakened and led down to the basement of the Ipatiev house. There they were summarily executed. Their bodies were hidden away, the location a secret of the Soviet state. A decade later, one man lives in purgatory, banished to a forest on the outskirts of humanity. Pekkala was once the most trusted secret agent of the Romanovs, the right-hand man of the Tsar himself. Now he is Prisoner 4745-P, living a harsh existence in which even the strongest vanish into the merciless Soviet winter. But the state needs Pekkala one last time. The man who knew the Romanovs best is given a final mission: catch their killers, locate the royal child rumored to be alive, and give Stalin the international coup he craves. Find the bodies, Pekkala is told, and you will find your freedom. Find the survivor of that bloody night and you will change history. In a land of uneasy alliances and deadly treachery, pursuing clues that have eluded everyone, Pekkala is thrust into the past where he once reigned. There he will meet the man who betrayed him and the woman he loved and lost in the fires of rebellion—and uncover a secret so shocking that it will shake to its core the land he loves. With stunning period detail and crackling suspense, Eye of the Red Tsar introduces a complex and compelling investigator in a fiercely intelligent thriller perfect for readers of Gorky Park, Child 44, and City of Thieves.


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This riveting suspense debut introduces both a stellar new voice and a remarkable detective, an outsider who must use his extraordinary talents to solve the one case that may redeem him. Shortly after midnight on July 17, 1918, the imprisoned family of Tsar Nicholas Romanov was awakened and led down to the basement of the Ipatiev house. There they were summarily executed. T This riveting suspense debut introduces both a stellar new voice and a remarkable detective, an outsider who must use his extraordinary talents to solve the one case that may redeem him. Shortly after midnight on July 17, 1918, the imprisoned family of Tsar Nicholas Romanov was awakened and led down to the basement of the Ipatiev house. There they were summarily executed. Their bodies were hidden away, the location a secret of the Soviet state. A decade later, one man lives in purgatory, banished to a forest on the outskirts of humanity. Pekkala was once the most trusted secret agent of the Romanovs, the right-hand man of the Tsar himself. Now he is Prisoner 4745-P, living a harsh existence in which even the strongest vanish into the merciless Soviet winter. But the state needs Pekkala one last time. The man who knew the Romanovs best is given a final mission: catch their killers, locate the royal child rumored to be alive, and give Stalin the international coup he craves. Find the bodies, Pekkala is told, and you will find your freedom. Find the survivor of that bloody night and you will change history. In a land of uneasy alliances and deadly treachery, pursuing clues that have eluded everyone, Pekkala is thrust into the past where he once reigned. There he will meet the man who betrayed him and the woman he loved and lost in the fires of rebellion—and uncover a secret so shocking that it will shake to its core the land he loves. With stunning period detail and crackling suspense, Eye of the Red Tsar introduces a complex and compelling investigator in a fiercely intelligent thriller perfect for readers of Gorky Park, Child 44, and City of Thieves.

30 review for Eye of the Red Tsar

  1. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    Another new series for me, which I’ve been meaning to get around to for a while now. Having recently completed the David Downing’s excellent Station series this will be my first foray into the status quo on the “other” side that of the Soviet Union in the interwar & war years, a period ive studied but not really read about so it’ll be interesting to see how much is familiar to me & looking forward to it as heard good things about the writing style. We start after the Russian revolution which is a Another new series for me, which I’ve been meaning to get around to for a while now. Having recently completed the David Downing’s excellent Station series this will be my first foray into the status quo on the “other” side that of the Soviet Union in the interwar & war years, a period ive studied but not really read about so it’ll be interesting to see how much is familiar to me & looking forward to it as heard good things about the writing style. We start after the Russian revolution which is apt (Being the 100 year anniversary this year) I think with a prologue which features the Tsar & his family in their last moments..... then fast forward to Siberia 1929 which is the “present” day for the story where we meet Pekkala also known as the Emerald Eye which reduces everyone to fear & trepidation when it’s mentioned which is quite amusing. The present day story starts in a Gulag where it seems most Russians were in or passed through at some time post Russian revolution & there we pick-up Pekkala’s tale which is told through a narrative involving him & a commissar or through flashbacks to past events which include briefly his childhood origins, his military background & then his association with the Tsar. The introductions over & we’re off with an investigation.......... which i’ll leave you to enjoy. The flashbacks continue throughout but you hardly notice the back n forth & in fact every time you have a question about the present day..... you turn the page & it’s all laid out in the next chapter (the flashbacks are short & concise & work perfectly to fill in the back-story). Without giving away the plot (too much) I will say the characters are wonderful, narrative is spot-on & the mystery unfolds as we go making for an easy & enjoyable read. We also have the soviet union of the 1920’s come to life as you work your way through the story. The epilogue & detail at the end is also well presented & gives a conclusion to the story/events. I’ve not gone into any detail about the investigation as its a mystery/crime theme but I think you get the idea of what’s involved....... Really looking like a gem of a series – 5 stars straight up. Recommended for all lovers of Historical Crime genre, Interwar stories, Soviet Union & perhaps Crime fiction in general.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Logan

    I enjoyed this one, but it gets two stars because, after writing this review, I realized my enjoyment had more to do with the subject matter than with the actual merits of the book. I've always had a fascination with Russian history, especially anything dealing with the Romanovs and the Revolution. I've devoured numerous books on the subject, but this one fell short of my hopes for three reasons. First, the suspense, for me, was dampened by knowledge of the Romanovs' fate. True, you'd have to liv I enjoyed this one, but it gets two stars because, after writing this review, I realized my enjoyment had more to do with the subject matter than with the actual merits of the book. I've always had a fascination with Russian history, especially anything dealing with the Romanovs and the Revolution. I've devoured numerous books on the subject, but this one fell short of my hopes for three reasons. First, the suspense, for me, was dampened by knowledge of the Romanovs' fate. True, you'd have to live under a rock not to know how Russia's royal family met their end, but this is a novel of suspense, so that knowledge hurts it. The story centers around Inspector Pekkala (the most trusted man of Tsar Nicholas II) and his investigation into the disappearance of the Romanovs during the Revolution. Officially, they were all executed, but the new government has released Pekkala from prison in return for investigating the numerous rumors that some of the family survived. There is, of course, a double motive for the investigation, which does add to the mystery, but it just isn't enough. Knowing that none of the Romanovs survived meant that I couldn't hope with Pekkala because I knew, from the very beginning, that his hope was in vain. And this brings me to the second reason the book fell short of my hopes. I never really connected with any of the characters. Partly because of what I mentioned above—I know much, much more than they do and it prevented me from getting truly invested in the story—and partly because no solid point of view is ever established. Sometimes the point of view seems to be Pekkala's, sometimes one or two of the other characters', and sometimes it seems to be the point of view of an omniscient narrator. This leaves perfectly developed characters feeling flat and uninteresting. Third, I found the ending very unsatisfying. I just could not believe that Pekkala would, with so little thought, so little anger, and no hesitation, continue working for the government that had tortured him, imprisoned him, forever separated him from the woman he loved, and brought about the murder of the Tsar (a man he seemed to respect and look up to) after he completed his investigation into the deaths of the Romanovs. It was just...blah. There is no other word for it. One thing I did enjoy is the way the narrative is split between the investigation in 1929 and Pekkala's memories leading up to the Revolution. It creates an intricate narrative that leaves the reader to make connections between past and present as Pekkala does. Overall, it's an okay read, but it hasn't sold me on the rest of the series.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    I find Russian history fascinating. Russia has been through so many changes and often in a very dramatic way. With the inclusion of the Romanov family demise and the political landscape 10 years after their death, the author imbued the story with a dramatic and desperate feel. I was amazed that Pekkala would be so calm after all he'd been through, it just seems like you would want to rail at the system or disappear as soon as you could but I like him as a detective character, that same calmness I find Russian history fascinating. Russia has been through so many changes and often in a very dramatic way. With the inclusion of the Romanov family demise and the political landscape 10 years after their death, the author imbued the story with a dramatic and desperate feel. I was amazed that Pekkala would be so calm after all he'd been through, it just seems like you would want to rail at the system or disappear as soon as you could but I like him as a detective character, that same calmness works really well for the character and the story.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jay

    I am always looking for serial novels that I can read more or less in a sitting or two, that fall into the general category of crime or mystery, and that keep me turning the page with a heightened level of anticipation. A Barnes and Noble staff member recommended Sam Eastland’s “Eye of the Red Tsar”. It is the first in a series of, to date, two works that will engage its protagonist in a variety of investigations in Stalin’s Soviet Union. Eastland’s choice of the staging area of the series undou I am always looking for serial novels that I can read more or less in a sitting or two, that fall into the general category of crime or mystery, and that keep me turning the page with a heightened level of anticipation. A Barnes and Noble staff member recommended Sam Eastland’s “Eye of the Red Tsar”. It is the first in a series of, to date, two works that will engage its protagonist in a variety of investigations in Stalin’s Soviet Union. Eastland’s choice of the staging area of the series undoubtedly is a response to the West’s interests in the intrigues and machinations of the Soviet years—an interest that increases as more of the Soviet’s archival records are opened to the public. Sam Eastland’s debut novel was passable. The plot, revolving around the Romanovs, was certainly intriguing and clear enough [are all of the Romanovs dead?; who killed them?; and where is the treasure the Tsar hid before being executed?] and the writing generally fluid. The protagonist, Inspector Pekkala known as the Emerald Eye, also had enough substance and depth to have sustained my interest. But there were aspects to the novel which were problematic as pointed out by Christian House in his review of the work. While Eastland developed Pekkala adequately, he did not do so with the Inspector’s two fellow travelers. One of them, judging from the novel’s end, will become Pekkala’s Watson: it would have been valuable to have given at least Kirov greater dimension and history. There was also the love relationship, as Eastland developed it, which seemed somewhat tangential to the story line, unless he intends to pick up the thread in a future work. But Eastland’s deficiencies with the delineation of some of his fictional characters were really secondary to his curious portrayal of Tsar Nicholas II. In Eastland’s hands, the Tsar comes across as a monarch eminently judicious but overwhelmed by uncontrollable circumstances. That is not the image of Nicholas that seems to be the historical consensus. The Romanovs, with Nicholas at the forefront, were excessively autocratic, anti-Semitic and greatly disengaged from their subjects. While the Romanovs collected Faberge eggs, their subjects suffered famines and executions. In a similar vein, Stalin, who looms largely in the background of this first novel, seems more benign. The interplay between the dictator and Pekkala hangs, poorly defined. In the end, even with the interesting plot, there was not enough weight to convince me to add the second entry in the series to my to-read list. Maybe later. As a final note, Eastland apparently is a pseudonym for an English writer, grandson of a British detective, living in the United States.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    Rating: 3.5* of five The Book Report: Pekkala is the Tsar's most powerful subject, the only one with the power to arrest even the Tsar himself for crimes against Russia. The Revolution, naturally enough, ends that power, and Pekkala endures torture and isolation for more than a decade before Comrade Stalin needs Pekkala's unique skills and knowledge to solve a lingering mystery: Who actually killed the Tsar, since it wasn't Moscow's orders to do so? Did any of the Romanovs survive Ekaterinburg? T Rating: 3.5* of five The Book Report: Pekkala is the Tsar's most powerful subject, the only one with the power to arrest even the Tsar himself for crimes against Russia. The Revolution, naturally enough, ends that power, and Pekkala endures torture and isolation for more than a decade before Comrade Stalin needs Pekkala's unique skills and knowledge to solve a lingering mystery: Who actually killed the Tsar, since it wasn't Moscow's orders to do so? Did any of the Romanovs survive Ekaterinburg? The answers to the questions posed takes Pekkala, his estranged brother Anton, and a young chef-in-training reassigned to political censorship because there is no food to cook, all over Siberia and the trans-Ural region, and once discovered, allow some of Pekkala's old scores to be settled. My Review: A perfectly pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette (Again)

    Mysteries within mysteries. I loved the complexity of this plot. I've been having some great luck with first novels lately, and this is another excellent one. The story takes place in 1929 and presents some fresh twists on the old "what really happened to the Romanovs?" conundrum. It's meticulously researched for period detail. Parts of the book were so fascinating that I almost wished it was longer, but I appreciate the author's all-too-rare ability to keep it tight and contained. There's a sup Mysteries within mysteries. I loved the complexity of this plot. I've been having some great luck with first novels lately, and this is another excellent one. The story takes place in 1929 and presents some fresh twists on the old "what really happened to the Romanovs?" conundrum. It's meticulously researched for period detail. Parts of the book were so fascinating that I almost wished it was longer, but I appreciate the author's all-too-rare ability to keep it tight and contained. There's a superb chronology at the back of the book that progresses from 1917 to the present. It explains the real history behind the mystery and how DNA testing has put it to rest for good. This is a new series, so I'm looking forward to seeing more of Inspector Pekkala. Great start! (4.5 stars)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    Sam Eastland's first (as far as I can tell) novel offers an intriguing setting: the Soviet Union in 1929. HIstorical novels of Russia abound, but most are set either in Tsarist times or in recent decades. Eastland's protagonist, Pekkala (his first name, like Spenser's, is never given), was a detective who was very close to Tsar Nicholas II and his family. After the revolution he was sent to a Siberian labor camp, where he managed to survive in conditions that no one else was able to endure. As t Sam Eastland's first (as far as I can tell) novel offers an intriguing setting: the Soviet Union in 1929. HIstorical novels of Russia abound, but most are set either in Tsarist times or in recent decades. Eastland's protagonist, Pekkala (his first name, like Spenser's, is never given), was a detective who was very close to Tsar Nicholas II and his family. After the revolution he was sent to a Siberian labor camp, where he managed to survive in conditions that no one else was able to endure. As the novel begins, he is released from captivity in order to discover whether the rumors that the Imperial Family, or some members of it, actually survived assassination. A nifty premise for a detective story, but the author lets us down. The bulk of the book is devoted to the hostile relationship between Pekkala and his older brother, with whom he is reunited in the hunt for the Romanovs. A better writer could have made this tension crackle, but in Eastland's handling it is about as interesting as other peoples' family squabbles ever are to outsiders--that is, not at all. If I knew more about Pekkala I might have cared more, but the author just doesn't make him into an interesting character. This is the first in a projected series of detective novels. Let's hope that this was just a warmup to a more exciting sequel.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    Fact: During the 1917 Russian Revolution, Tsar Nicholas II and his family were arrested and imprisoned. Fact: They spent part of their year-long imprisonment under house arrest at the Ipatiev House in the town of Yekaterinburg, while the Bolsheviks argued over what to do with them. Some wanted to simply execute them, but the cooler heads argued a public trial would help bolster the legitimacy of the new government. Fact: As the anti-communist White Army approached the town, rather than risk allo Fact: During the 1917 Russian Revolution, Tsar Nicholas II and his family were arrested and imprisoned. Fact: They spent part of their year-long imprisonment under house arrest at the Ipatiev House in the town of Yekaterinburg, while the Bolsheviks argued over what to do with them. Some wanted to simply execute them, but the cooler heads argued a public trial would help bolster the legitimacy of the new government. Fact: As the anti-communist White Army approached the town, rather than risk allowing the royal family to fall into their hands, the entire family was executed in the basement of the Ipatiev House. Where history leaves off, Eastland picks up with a "What if?" scenario. What if the Romanovs weren't executed by Soviet command, but murdered by a secret cabal? What if they were killed during an escape attempt? What if not all of the family was killed? What happened to their bodies? And where was the Tsar's rumored secret treasure hoard? Ten years after the revolution, the Tsar's former chief special investigator and most trusted confidante is pulled from imprisonment in the forests of Siberia to investigate a decade-old murder. Eye of the Red Tsar is a compact, simple, neatly crafted mystery set in Stalinist Russia, with a few gaping flaws. It is not a particularly fast-paced or complicated story, and the terms "thriller" and "suspense" are a bit misleading. But it is a satisfying read for the most part. The story unfolds deliberately, with just enough "reveal" in each chapter to keep the pages turning. I say gaping flaws because there were a couple of aspects of the plot I was very dissatisfied with, namely: 1. (view spoiler)[ The secret to locating the Tsar's treasure was so obvious, I couldn't believe it took Pekkala so darn long to figure it out. Eastland foreshadowed it so loudly that only a dunce wouldn't see it coming. And yet he did a big reveal at the moment Pekkala finally figures it out. And the actual location of the treasure wasn't exactly surprising either-- the only surprising thing was that the Bolsheviks didn't find it on their own as a matter of course. (hide spoiler)] 2. (view spoiler)[ It wasn't remotely believable that Grodek could convincingly impersonate the much younger Alexei, particularly when Grodek wasn't known to resemble the Romanovs. And yet, Pekkala, who has an eidetic memory and never forgets a face, and knew Alexei better than anyone still living, was completely fooled?? Bah! (hide spoiler)] 3. I also wish the roots of the animosity between Pekkala and his brother had been explored a little more deeply. There was clearly a shocking betrayal of some sort which led to Pekkala to Siberia, while his brother got a good position in Moscow, but it is only hinted at, never truly revealed. If you're looking for a fast-paced, action-packed, complex thriller that will keep you up late turning pages, look elsewhere. And yet Eye of the Red Tsar does have its share of fights with fists and guns, bombings, danger, and dark secrets. And of course, a slice of life in early Soviet Russia.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Rigsby

    What Eastland does best is his excruciating attention to period detail. The emblems on buttons, the texture of the wall in the prison, the kinds of army rations his characters endure, are all presented precisely and deliberately. It also helps that this book covers a topic and a period that I knew very little about previously, and this also added to the charm. A minor point where the book falls short is the amount of time it spends on the main character's relationship with his estranged brother. What Eastland does best is his excruciating attention to period detail. The emblems on buttons, the texture of the wall in the prison, the kinds of army rations his characters endure, are all presented precisely and deliberately. It also helps that this book covers a topic and a period that I knew very little about previously, and this also added to the charm. A minor point where the book falls short is the amount of time it spends on the main character's relationship with his estranged brother. Because so much time is spent on the relationship, I wish I understood their backstory better, or cared about it more. The facts are there, but there is very little emotional investment in them. The ending too, left a little bit to be desired, but I wasn't overwhelmingly disappointed. All told, though, Eastland presents a mashup of suspense, historical fiction, and detective fiction in a way that offers authentic flavor and originality. I enjoyed this book very much. Sometimes, I wished that his character's dialogue didn't lean so often toward cliche, but this is more than made up for by the setting and the scenarios Eastland leads you through. Worth the read for anyone who enjoys unconventional historical fiction and crime. Read more on my website: http://joshuarigsby.com

  10. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Just arrived from Finland through BM. A very griping espionage story of Inspector Pekkala who formerly was Tsar's special investigator. The plot involves the Romanov's assassination with the historical background of the Russian revolution.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Bettie's Books

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sho

    I'm an Open University* student. I study one module (equivalent broadly to one semester) per year. The courses run from the beginning of October to the Beginning of June which leaves me most of June, July, August and September to read whatever I like. Literary stuff. Science. Children's books. YA novels. Rubbish. Anything at all. This year I noticed that my TBR bookshelf is full of non-fiction, a lot of which is social science related. But I wanted a break from that and really struggled to find s I'm an Open University* student. I study one module (equivalent broadly to one semester) per year. The courses run from the beginning of October to the Beginning of June which leaves me most of June, July, August and September to read whatever I like. Literary stuff. Science. Children's books. YA novels. Rubbish. Anything at all. This year I noticed that my TBR bookshelf is full of non-fiction, a lot of which is social science related. But I wanted a break from that and really struggled to find something on there that would provide the brain candy I wanted. I started a few and chucked them aside. I didn't want anything challenging. Eventually, when it's nearly too late, I remembered there are loads of books on my Kindle (I used to download anything interesting if it was on offer for 99cents or so). And thus I stumbled upon Siberian Red by Sam Eastland. I had no idea what it would be about (I thought maybe tigers...) but I plunged in during my lunchbreak** and was gripped from page 1. But as my lunchbreak ended it dawned on me that this was part of a series about Inspector Pakkala. But - the wonders of modern technology - I have a 3G kindle so I could immediately download Eye of the Red Tsar and started reading on my train journey home. I read after I'd eaten my dinner, and I abandoned the book I had been reading before bed (a collection of fantasy short stories that aren't really grabbing me) and so on. Until once again I found myself walking back to my office this morning having missed not only my bus stop, but the one after that too. (still, it's a lovely morning and the cool morning air really helps me to wake up at 7am). But what is it about? Well, it is about Inspector Pakkala and is mission to find the killer of the Romanov family in 1929. Which is during the time of Stalin. And that's all I'm going to say about it really. It's pacy, thrilling and told in nearly alternate chapters of the actual story, and flashbacks over Inspector Pakkala's life and how he got to be where he is now. Or was then. Or whatever. Reading this took me back to the time as a teenager when my parents (I can't remember which of them read it first) pressed a copy of Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith into my hot, sweaty, teenage palm and insisted that I read it immediately. And it also took me back to reading Child 44 by Tim Rob Smith. So what's not to like? A relatively enigmatic Soviet-era detective with an interesting background. The only thing that i have to complain about is that Sam Eastland (which is a nom de plume) didn't think to call himself Sam Eastland Smith. Because I would have... Anyway. The upshot of this is that I have ordered the first 3 books in paperback, and because I really cannot wait and because Modern Technology - I've got book 2 in the series (The Red Coffin) ready to read on my Kindle. Roll on lunchtime! Edited to add: some of the historical details so play really fast and loose with the truth so don't read this if you're after learning a lot about the Romanovs, the Russian Revolution, Stalin, the Finnish regiment etc etc... *That is: part time, distance learning (I'm studying for a BA (Hons) in Politics, Philosophy and Economics **I often spend my "summer break" lunchtimes snoozing. It is a measure of how much I was sucked into reading about Inspector Pakkala that I stayed awake not only right through lunch, but also on my journey home too! And if that's not endorsement, i don't know what is.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Shannan

    This book had nice character development and some very thoughtful reflections on life and war and change. I enjoyed reading this book merely as a stand alone suspense novel, but not as a work of historical fiction. Actually the sub-title reminds us that this is indeed a "Novel of Suspense" perhaps so the reader wont get too caught up in the names and dates and well, the truth. The author does include an index at the end with facts, and I fought the urge to flip back and read it because I think i This book had nice character development and some very thoughtful reflections on life and war and change. I enjoyed reading this book merely as a stand alone suspense novel, but not as a work of historical fiction. Actually the sub-title reminds us that this is indeed a "Novel of Suspense" perhaps so the reader wont get too caught up in the names and dates and well, the truth. The author does include an index at the end with facts, and I fought the urge to flip back and read it because I think it would have made the novel obviously less interesting and relevant. But when I finally turned the last page and read the facts that are known about the Tsar and his family it made me curious enough to want to read more about it. And...I enjoyed the novel enough to be willing to read the next volume which will continue to follow the main character as he works for the new government. So I guess, in the end, the author did a good job shining a light on not only Russian history, but on his books as well.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Marvin

    A first-reads win. I've been reading an unusual amount of historical thrillers this year. Eyes of The Red Tsar is set in Stalinist Russia and it is a entertaining but flawed mystery. This book appears to be the first of a series. The author puts together a strong protagonist named Pekkala with a number of Sherlockian skills like quick perception and a photographic memory. Yet this first novel of the series lacks the pacing and action I would expect from this type of tale. While I found it quite r A first-reads win. I've been reading an unusual amount of historical thrillers this year. Eyes of The Red Tsar is set in Stalinist Russia and it is a entertaining but flawed mystery. This book appears to be the first of a series. The author puts together a strong protagonist named Pekkala with a number of Sherlockian skills like quick perception and a photographic memory. Yet this first novel of the series lacks the pacing and action I would expect from this type of tale. While I found it quite readable I did find myself occasionally acclaiming to our intrepid investigator; "What? How could you miss that?". I suspect Russian history experts may cringe at some of the liberties Mr. Eastland takes to move on his plot. However, as historical thrillers goes, it was quite enjoyable and should satisfy the average mystery buff.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer W

    I won this book on goodreads giveaways!! My first win! Can't wait to get it. I love the Russian Revolution, it's got the perfect mix of story elements- kings and queens, a mystical doctor who basically controls the family, rebellion, murder, and a possible escape. What more could you want in a story? I was really quite impressed with this book. There are some minor areas that could be better but overall a very good first book from an author that I will certainly be reading in the future. I think I won this book on goodreads giveaways!! My first win! Can't wait to get it. I love the Russian Revolution, it's got the perfect mix of story elements- kings and queens, a mystical doctor who basically controls the family, rebellion, murder, and a possible escape. What more could you want in a story? I was really quite impressed with this book. There are some minor areas that could be better but overall a very good first book from an author that I will certainly be reading in the future. I think my biggest problem was keeping track of who was guarding the Tsar and who was coming to get him and were they on his side or not. I know a bit about this time period and the players involved, but not enough to not get confused when they were talking about the Reds, the Whites, the Cheka, and who was on what side. Still, I will definitely be recommending this book to people.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bandit

    Random selection, just wanted something to listen to, but this turned out quite good. Really interesting setting, compelling mystery. Finnish inspector searching for the long buried secrets of the royal Romanov family. Solid pacing, plenty of suspense, excellent descriptions. Few far stretched plot points towards the end thrown in for the dramatic effects, but what thriller doesn't. Of course, it's a series, genre writers seem practically unable to leave a good thing well enough alone, but at le Random selection, just wanted something to listen to, but this turned out quite good. Really interesting setting, compelling mystery. Finnish inspector searching for the long buried secrets of the royal Romanov family. Solid pacing, plenty of suspense, excellent descriptions. Few far stretched plot points towards the end thrown in for the dramatic effects, but what thriller doesn't. Of course, it's a series, genre writers seem practically unable to leave a good thing well enough alone, but at least Eastland was clever enough to come up with time and place for his stories to set his work apart from the countless others. The reader did a pretty good job, although some of the accent and particularly his pronunciation of Stalin's name were questionable. This certainly livened up my walks. Plenty of entertainment, pretty fun read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Veeral

    Lots of needless foreshadowing killed the thrill. I truly found some decisions of the protagonist extremely unbelievable. (view spoiler)[Such as, after all the things that Stalin has done to him, he accepts the offer to work for him in the end. (hide spoiler)] I don't know if his decision somehow is a long thought out vengeance plan, to be carried out in rest of the series, but this book really left me unsatisfied. Lots of needless foreshadowing killed the thrill. I truly found some decisions of the protagonist extremely unbelievable. (view spoiler)[Such as, after all the things that Stalin has done to him, he accepts the offer to work for him in the end. (hide spoiler)] I don't know if his decision somehow is a long thought out vengeance plan, to be carried out in rest of the series, but this book really left me unsatisfied.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    I liked this book. War is ugly and this book showed that in grim detail. I am somewhat fascinated with Russian history, both old history and things that have occurred in the last century. It is during the last century that they seem to have struggled with identity. They have been constantly evolving, changing, and searching. This book deals with takeover after the death of the Romanovs. Overall, I liked the character development and the sense of place in this. So 3 stars.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Craig

    A wonderful first novel in the series. Yes, Sam ones write under this pseudonym, and I therefore expected it to be a bloody good novel. I was surprised how good it was......and read the whole book inside 30 hours. Simply, a wonderful read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jeanne

    Tsar Nicholas and his family, Stalin, and the revolution are key to the story of Pekkala, a detective in the new Soviet Russia. Pekkala is the guide through that chaotic time of history. He is on the path to discover the truth of the Tsar's fate and the location of his treasure. The author has created a plausible scenario involving what might have happened to these historical figures. Pekkala, as befits all fictional detectives these days, is a damaged man with a passion for doing the right thin Tsar Nicholas and his family, Stalin, and the revolution are key to the story of Pekkala, a detective in the new Soviet Russia. Pekkala is the guide through that chaotic time of history. He is on the path to discover the truth of the Tsar's fate and the location of his treasure. The author has created a plausible scenario involving what might have happened to these historical figures. Pekkala, as befits all fictional detectives these days, is a damaged man with a passion for doing the right thing. He is an interesting guy to spend time with.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tineke

    This was an okay book. Fun while it lasted, but nothing special. I found some actions of characters a bit unbelievable. Not that I mind that the author twisted history a bit, it's fiction after all, but I couldn't imagine doing the things and making the choices the characters did. It didn't feel logical at all.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    In the newly formed Soviet Union, the Tsar’s best secret agent is released from prison to investigate the Romanovs’ murders and to locate their hidden fortune. Suspenseful mystery with fascinating Russian history. I especially enjoyed reading a spy novel from this rare perspective.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dalia

    This is a good 3.5- I really enjoyed the book, but the story was stronger than the writing and masked some flaws. I think he would have killed Dtalin at the end even if it meant being killed himself since at that point he was under no illusions about anything. Was the Ilya photo doctored like the Potemkin village? I will try the next in series to see if characters develop more....

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jane Zanker

    Fab, actually made me research the Russian revolution

  25. 4 out of 5

    Eleon397

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Why is the ending often a disappointment? Up until the last few pages, I would have given a 5 rating but I couldn’t swallow the contrived ending and the change in the inspector. First: how did he mistake the identity of Alexei? Second: why is Stalin made into a benevolent father instead of the monster that he was. And why does the inspector seem to revere Stalin rather than despise him? Hard to understand. I will read the next book to see if it provides redemption.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    This debut historical thriller takes the execution of the Romanov royal family in 1918 as the catalyst for its plot. (A word of warning to anyone with a an interest in or knowledge of the Romanovs and/or that era of Russian/Soviet history -- the author takes a great deal of fictional liberties with the known facts -- as is his right as a storyteller -- so don't expect one of those works of historical fiction that dovetails perfectly with reality.) The protagonist is a Finn named Pekkala who enli This debut historical thriller takes the execution of the Romanov royal family in 1918 as the catalyst for its plot. (A word of warning to anyone with a an interest in or knowledge of the Romanovs and/or that era of Russian/Soviet history -- the author takes a great deal of fictional liberties with the known facts -- as is his right as a storyteller -- so don't expect one of those works of historical fiction that dovetails perfectly with reality.) The protagonist is a Finn named Pekkala who enlists in Tsar Nicholas' personal guard as a teenager, and is hand-picked by the Tsar to be a counter-terrorist investigator with almost unlimited powers and scope. However, in the wake of Bolshevik revolution, Pekkala is thrown into a gulag, where he spends the next decade. As the book opens in 1929, he is released into the custody of his Bolshevik brother and a a young political commissar. It seems that Stalin wants him to investigate the fate of the Romanovs, and establish whether or not they were all really killed. The story switches back and forth between Pekkala's training and rise to a position of renown and influence in the court, and the investigation into the Romanovs. Unfortunately, the results never rise beyond being merely serviceable. Pekkala is a too-honorable-to-be-true man (as we learn in a very clumsy scene, he is rarer than one in a million), with photographic memory and all kinds of of useful skills, not to mention intelligent, brave, etc. He's a hero in desperate need of some flaws or really anything to make him interesting. As the story unfolds, we get quite effective portrayals of life in pre and post-Bolshevik Russia, which goes a long way to making the book readable. There's a palpable sense of how tenuous the Bolshevik's control of the country was, which contrasts nicely with a sequence set in a Potemkin village. The plot is fairly run-of-the-mill thriller stuff, as Pekkala follows threads of information from point A to point B to point C and on to the inevitable twists at the end. Unfortunately, pretty much every reader will recognize the major clue that Pekkala is given several hundred pages before he does. There are also logical problems that crop up from time to time, for example, we learn that Pekkala was purposely not killed in the purges, but tucked away at the gulag in case Stalin decided to use him -- however, the job Pekkala was given at the gulag killed every other man who held it within a few months... The worst part of all is a surprise twist at the end that is wholly unbelievable given Pekkala's supposed skills as someone who notices details (not to mention, is intimately familiar with the people involved). So, despite the generally evocative atmosphere, the book has to be considered mediocre at best. But the era is interesting enough to me that I'd give the inevitable sequel a chance, in the hopes that some of the deficiencies of this first book have been improved upon.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Brad

    I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. It's still an honest review, but the FTC wanted you to know... ---------------- This was a good story, which I won from goodreads. Despite being a little slower than I expected (the book is advertised as a thriller, but is more of a historical mystery) I really enjoyed it. It takes place in the early 1900s in Russia, where the Tsar's most trusted investigator is pulled from a prison camp to investigate the death of the Tsar and his famil I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. It's still an honest review, but the FTC wanted you to know... ---------------- This was a good story, which I won from goodreads. Despite being a little slower than I expected (the book is advertised as a thriller, but is more of a historical mystery) I really enjoyed it. It takes place in the early 1900s in Russia, where the Tsar's most trusted investigator is pulled from a prison camp to investigate the death of the Tsar and his family. Pekkala is a character with a mind like Shawn from Psych--he is very observant and has an amazing memory. He also is a good man, and is a protagonist you want to cheer for despite some of the crummy things he's been through. The novel interweaves his back story with the plot of the novel, which mostly has the feel of a "journey" novel. One of the big twists was foreshadowed early on and I saw it much more clearly than Pekkala did. But there was one other big twist that I didn't see coming, which helped make the end of the book quite a bit more exciting. I look forward to the rest of the series. Pekkala's relationships with his brother, with the officer in charge of the investigation, and with the people that he meets were interesting. I also found the mystery town they passed through and the way Stalin spread his propaganda to be very interesting. Rating: PG-13 for some violence. ***SPOILERS AHEAD*** (view spoiler)[ The mystery town was a propaganda town to which western reporters and officials were brought. Things looked prosperous there with happy people, but it was all a facade. The people were scared behind their happy masks, and the food in store windows was made of wax. Visitors were brought in on a heavily guarded train with thick curtains so as to not see the surrounding countryside. Seriously, it took until the last 30 pages for Pekkala to realize that the Tsar had hidden a message to him in the book that he had borrowed and then forcefully returned? I understand that figuring out what the message was would be difficult and he might need some assistance there (which came later), but realizing that there was something there should not have taken so long. Sad for Pekkala that Alexei was really dead, and that Grodek (terrorist that Pekkala was somewhat responsible for training) was just impersonating him to get to the treasure. I didn't really see that one coming. Also sad that his love had moved on (can't blame her after 10 years with no word). Now he's working for Stalin--we'll see how this works out. I am excited for the prospect of his continuing to work with Kirov. I think they make a nice pair. (hide spoiler)]

  28. 4 out of 5

    LJ

    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 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. EYE OF THE RED TSAR (Hist/Susp, Insp. Pekkala, Russia, 1929) – VG Eastland, Sam (aka Paul Watkins) – 1st in series Bantam Books, ©2010, US Hardcover – ISBN: 9780553807813

  29. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    Subjects in crime fiction seem to come in waves these days. Russian history seems to be one of those waves, either that or there's some weird synergy going on in my life. EYE OF THE RED TSAR is one of the Russian themed books I've been lucky enough to receive recently. Set against Russia under the rule of Stalin and all the brutality and ruthlessness that regime imposed, this is a book about the life of Pekkala. A favourite of the Tsar, Pekkala was known to be utterly loyal to his master. Unexpe Subjects in crime fiction seem to come in waves these days. Russian history seems to be one of those waves, either that or there's some weird synergy going on in my life. EYE OF THE RED TSAR is one of the Russian themed books I've been lucky enough to receive recently. Set against Russia under the rule of Stalin and all the brutality and ruthlessness that regime imposed, this is a book about the life of Pekkala. A favourite of the Tsar, Pekkala was known to be utterly loyal to his master. Unexpectedly reprieved he is accompanied by the very new Commissar Kirov on his mission. A bitter sweet assignment for Pekkala. On the one hand, possible success and freedom; on the other, the sadness and despair he feels as he traces the last days of the family he knew, and in particular the Tsar he admired. The fate of the Romanov's, told from the aspect of the Tsar and the entire family, rather than the more common Anastasia speculation is related as a series of current day events interspersed with flashbacks. So much of what Pekkala sees, hears and touches reminds him of the past. It's a very elaborate, textured way of telling a tale, slowly and intricately, weaving Pekkala's past life, his own background, the current investigation, the Tsar's family, Kirov and Pekkala's estranged brother. Because Pekkala is narrating this tale the constantly outward looking perspective does mean that you feel like you understand the life that has shaped this man, but you may come away from the book not quite sure who the man has become. As this is the first book in a proposed series, that seems somehow fair enough, one would hope that in the future the character himself will step out from behind the events and into the light a little more. Having said that, this is a gloriously Russian feeling novel. There is a sense of history, of sadness, a little hope, a lot of reflection, glory found, and more than a little glory lost. There is also, given that this is an alternate history, a timeline at the end which explains what really happened to the Romanov's. For which I, for one, was very grateful. There is such a sense of reality to EYE OF THE RED TSAR that it was very easy to get more than a little confused about facts versus fiction.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    This was a book I won in a First Read's giveaway. Sam Eastland's affable first book of an investigator in Stalin-era Russia is an interesting, if predictable, read. For a "thriller," the novel is noticeably lacking in thrills. The first four-fifths contains no sign of an adversary as the hero and his cohort extensively investigate the Romanov's disappearance with no resistance at all. "Chill[s}" likewise are noticeably absent from this formulaic murder investigation. Until very late in the book, This was a book I won in a First Read's giveaway. Sam Eastland's affable first book of an investigator in Stalin-era Russia is an interesting, if predictable, read. For a "thriller," the novel is noticeably lacking in thrills. The first four-fifths contains no sign of an adversary as the hero and his cohort extensively investigate the Romanov's disappearance with no resistance at all. "Chill[s}" likewise are noticeably absent from this formulaic murder investigation. Until very late in the book, there is no clock to race against, no threat against which the heroes must fight, just a simple question, most of which is answered very early on. Additionally, unlike Soviet authors of the time period Eastland writes about, surroundings and characters are sparsely described, leaving much to be filled in by the reader's memory and imagination. At a brief 265 pages, it will not take up much of your time. Of those 265 pages, a significant portion is taken up with flashbacks developing Pekkala's character. Eastland is allegedly working on a follow-up volume, but I'm not sure what he'll have to say. Eastland does illustrate some things well: the absurd nature of Stalin's propaganda, the doomed resignation of a populace too exhausted to be scared, the underlying absence of logic in a completely dysfunctional system. Indeed, Eastland provides a great example of Stalinist Russia without the reader having to know the significance of a character's buttons going missing. Still, one wonders where Eastland is going with this series. By the end, the intriguing Pekkala has made a decision that has me curious to see what Eastland will do. Is a proverbial deal with the devil going to be shown for what it is, or will Eastland sanitize history for the sake of entertainment? I'd be willing to give the second book a shot to find out.

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