cover image The Romanov Cross

The Romanov Cross

Robert Masello. Bantam, $26 (512p) ISBN 978-0-553-80780-6

In this fascinating, funny, and frightening supernatural thriller, Masello (Blood and Ice) skillfully weaves together the story of the deaths of the Russian royal family with the possibility of a new worldwide influenza pandemic. St. Peter’s, a small island off the coast of Alaska’s Seward Peninsula, was once the home of a tiny community of followers of Rasputin, the notorious Russian monk. St. Peter’s sole living inhabitant, if living is the right word, is a Romanov—the recipient of a blessing from Rasputin, or maybe it was a curse. The island’s graveyard contains victims of the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918. Global warming is now heaving the coffins to the surface and into the sea. Field epidemiologist Maj. Frank Slater and his team journey to St. Peter’s to see if any of the original flu virus is still a danger to humanity. The inhabitants of the nearby town of Port Orlov play key roles in the action—in particular the fetching mayor, Nika Tincook, and the local ne’er-do-wells, Harley Vane and his wheelchair-bound brother, Charlie, whose petty criminal deeds threaten the world. Toss in a pack of slavering wolves, the undead, and a chilling ending, and the result is a terrific, can’t-put-it-down read. Fine prose and plotting help solidify Masello’s position at the top of this crowded subgenre. Agent: Cynthia Manson, Cynthia Manson Literary. (Mar.)