This is another sequel. I read Miller’s UK debut, A Game of Soldiers last year and loved it. This, if anything is even better. Miller continues with his gritty depiction of early 20th century Russia, here in the grip of the revolution. He is showing himself to be a master at the sort of historical plot I adore where a fictional story is woven imperceptibly between what we know of real events.
Everyone knows something about the last days of the last Tsar of Russia even if it is only that he and his family were murdered. But there were always stories that one of more of his children survived, such as the notorious case of Anna Anderson, who claimed to be Anastasia. I recall seeing advertising in a magazine from the twenties using a testimonial purportedly from Tatiana about how useful she found so and so’s cough mixture now that she had to earn her living as an opera singer! Miller uses this tradition and brilliantly pulls it off.
It is July 1918. Miller’s morose protagonist, former secret policeman Ryzkhov has spent the last few years in the trenches fighting for the French. Now circumstances and blackmail have brought him back to Moscow, where further blackmail forces him to work for the nascent Soviet secret police, and gives him the task of identifying what has happened to the Tsar and his family. Heading to Yekatarinburg, he is caught up in the bitter conflict between the Whites and the Bolsheviks, but continues with his task, only to discover all is not as clear cut as it first appears…
The only disappointing thing about this book, which I read in the UK paperback edition, was the simply appalling proofing. I’ve read self-published novels from Publish America with better proofing and that’s saying something. This really is unfortunate as it detracts from what is an excellent and thoroughly gripping read. It’s real edge of the chair stuff, and had me turning the pages as fast as I could read them to see if Ryzkhov pulls it off. I loved the twist at the end. Strongly recommended.