Rasputin’s Shadow: A Novel. Raymond Khoury. Dutton/Penguin Group USA. October 2013. 416 pp. hbk. ISBN #: 9780525953135.
A strange beginning occurs when a group of miners in Russia after hearing an explosion start to violently attack each other to the death. It is 1916 and the people are extremely unhappy with the famous Tsar Alexander and his family. Then the notorious Grigor Efimovich Rasputin appears with his close companion, Misha, announcing that salvation is coming to the land. These two men meet in a monastery where both are seeking God for the redemption of their sinful souls. When Rasputin learns what his friend has invented, the die is cast. Rasputin realizes that his vision of purification is about to unfold through Misha’s secret creation.
The scene then shifts to America to a physicist Sokolov who is a quiet man, deeply in love with his wife. They live a simple life which is about to spin totally out of control. For Sokolov has made a grievous error in joining a protest outside the Soviet embassy in New York, not realizing the cameras are turned on and recording the face of every protestor. A Russian diplomat is found dead, having committed suicide or been murdered by being thrown through a high-rise window. Then Sokolov’s wife is kidnapped; but there’s no request for a ransom, and Sokolov knows it is he the criminals are after!
The story switches back and forth between the past when Rasputin was able to establish himself as a healer and set about to heal the son of the Tsar. Later he will be killed by the Bolsheviks, but his friend Misha’s invention will not die with him. For his grandson, Sokolov found Misha’s journals which led to a long study of science and the realization of what his grandfather had done. Sokolov, before he met his wife, set himself to replicating the weapon that will bring chaos to the streets of Brooklyn, New York and have the potential to leash the same upon anyone, anywhere, in the world. The question is who will find Sokolov first, now that he has gone into hiding!
The police, an FBI agent Sean Reilly, a Korean drug dealer, a Russian mobster, and a Russian agent are all in the race to capture Sokolov. Dead bodies and shootout scenes abound, with car chases, secretive phone calls and more. For this machine, which is really what everyone wants – and most aren’t really sure what the key is to this Sokolov character – has the power to alter the personalities of anyone individually or in a crowd, with devastating, bizarre, and savage results.
Rasputin’s Shadow: A Novel is a tautly plotted, intense thriller/mystery and historical novel to rivet every reader’s attention. It certainly would make a phenomenal movie as well but most of all it’s a well-crafted story with several different but interconnected plots. It’s a tale of evil genius creating a tool that in the wrong hands could actually end the world as we know it. Superb job, Raymond Khoury! Highly recommended and worthy of a wide audience!