Title: The Eye of the Red Tsar
Author: Sam Eastland
Publication Year: 2010
Pages for Year: 288
Count for Year: 35
I found this one on the new book shelf at our local library, where I work, about a month ago and thought it looked intriguing. The story goes back and forth between 1929, from when Prisoner 4745-P is released from a prison camp in Siberia to 1917 and 1918, where we learn of the prisoner’s identity as the head confidant and investigator for Tsar Nicholas Romanov. The prisoner, whose name is Pekkala, was given the title “The Eye of the Tsar,” because he could go anywhere, do anything he wanted for the Tsar when he was in power. Now Pekkala has been called upon by Stalin himself to investigate the murder of the Tsar and his family, and to see if there are any survivors, so Stalin can grant them amnesty.
I read reviews on Goodreads after I finished this, with reviewers there who didn’t like the book because they thought it didn’t do a good job with the history of the Romanovs. As someone who knows nothing about that history, I didn’t care and was glad to be learning anything about the Romanovs and Russian history. For that reason, I’m giving this one a 3 out of 5, worth taking out of the library, and who knows maybe the second one in the series, scheduled to be published in 2011, will be even better than this one.
Title: The Collaborator of Bethlehem
Author: Matt Beynon Rees
Publication Year: 2007
Count for Year: 37
I discovered this one among the fiction stacks in the library, while shelf-reading. When I started at the library, I started a list of books found while shelf-reading, instead of just taking the books off the shelves and bringing them home to sit and not be read. I had included this one earlier this year, but one Saturday when work was particularly slow, I needed a book to read and since I had forgotten to bring a book with me, I picked up this one. Immediately, I was drawn into the story of Omar Yussef, a history teacher in Bethlehem, who becomes an investigator after one of his former students, a former pupil and Christian, is arrested by the Palestinian authorities for collaborating with the Israelis in the killing of a Palestinian guerilla. The dead man’s wife also happens to be a former pupil, adding to the drama.
A former Jerusalem bureau chief and contributor for Time magazine, Rees knows the setting well and captures the political tensions while remaining fairly neutral in his assessment of the conflict. He deftly presents both sides of the conflict, showing that really there are no true winners and many losers. However, the conflict is only the backdrop for a well-crafted murder mystery, which kept me guessing until the end — even though I might have had an inkling. Because it was so well done and I’m looking forward to the others in this series, I give this one a 4 out of 5, because I’d definitely buy a copy of this for myself at some point. It more than deserves a place on the shelf of any serious mystery reader.
My rating system:
5- Classic, must read, worth not only owning, but buying extra copies for friends
4- Worth owning a copy
3- Worth picking up at library
2- Worth skimming at the bookstore
1- Worth being a doorstop
These mini-reviews are part of my ongoing weekly series: