"A library doesn't need windows. A library is a window." – Stewart Brand

Jun 16, 2010

Read Something! _Eye of the Red Tsar_ (Sam Eastland)

Eye of the Red Tsar

278 pp.
Historical Suspense

Introducing Pekkala: a man with a near-photographic memory and an ironclad determination to do the right thing in any situation. Under the Romanovs he was the Emerald Eye -- the Tsar's infamously incorruptible chief investigator, accountable to no one but himself, with the authority to question or arrest anyone -- even the Tsar. Now he is a prisoner of Stalin's regime, sentenced to labor in a remote gulag.
But the state has need of Pekkala still. Released from the gulag, he is tasked with a final investigation: find the bodies of the Romanovs, their rumored still-living child, and their hidden treasure. If he scores this coup for Stalin, he will finally be free. But Pekkala is not the only person seeking lost treasure, and there are those who wish to ensure that the truth of what happened to the Romanovs is never known. Can Pekkala find the answers before he loses his life?

Appeal characteristics
  • Plot: 2 (2.5? 3?) plots are semi-interwoven throughout the book. One plot deals with the characters in the present, and the other deals with Pekkala's backstory, including a romance.
  • Plot (?): There is a mystery, but much more time is spent on character development than on unraveling the mystery
  • Characterization: Character-focused book; much of the novel is about the main character, his past, and his relationships with others
  • Pacing: Pacing is fairly slow for a suspense novel/thriller; generally, a major event happens every few sections, with a lot of slower filler dealing with character development and backstory
  • Pacing: Pacing increases markedly at the end; the book shifts more toward an emphasis on plot than characters, and the characters are put in increasing physical danger
  • Frame: Periodic moments of levity/humor break up the more serious tone of the rest of the book
Other notes
  • The mystery is fairly predictable for readers who are attentive to foreshadowing and hints. Readers who enjoy mysteries that force them to solve puzzles, as well as readers who don't like it when the main character(s) remain clueless for some time after the reader has already figured something out, may not be good matches for this book.
  • My Noting: Books entry on Eye of the Red Tsar: http://notingbooks.com/users/hbackman/readings/5638-Eye-of-the-Red-Tsar
  • Sherlock Holmes? (I have sadly not yet read any Conan Doyle so I don't actually know if this is a match at all...)
  • Child 44 (Tom Rob Smith) -- similar setting; both are thrillers/suspense novels; pacing, focus on characters vs. plot, and general content are quire different; level of suspense in Child 44 is much higher and is sustained throughout the book; Child 44 deals with the ethical issues related to working for a totalitarian state whereas Eye glosses it over; Eye is much better written, stylistically (the phrasing and flow are more evocative and less awkward)

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