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The Kitchen Boy
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About the Author

Robert Alexander has studied at Leningrad State University, worked for the U.S. government in the former U.S.S.R., and traveled extensively throughout Russia.

Reviews

The Romanovs are arguably second only to Jack the Ripper as objects of literary speculation. The story of their last days, their possible escape and the final resting place of the $500 million in jewels hidden in their clothing provides periodic grist for fiction writers. Alexander's first novel is based on "decades of painstaking research" and access to previously sealed Russian archives. He has produced a detailed version of the Romanovs' captivity, but the book fails to deliver much drama, despite the inherent mystery of the events. Narrated by 94-year-old Mikhail Semyanov, a Russian immigrant now living outside Chicago, the novel travels back to the bloody days of the Russian revolution, when the entire royal family is imprisoned in Siberia, in a building known as the House of Special Purpose. There, the seven Romanovs-Tsar Nikolai, his wife Aleksandra, their hemophiliac son, Aleksei, and their four daughters-are confined with a small staff of attendants, including Leonka, the kitchen boy of the title, who may or may not be narrator Mikhail. The captivity is seen from Leonka's point of view, and his focus on the gravely ill Aleksei prevents the development of a fully nuanced portrait of the rest of the family. Instead, they're depicted as passive victims of a tyranny even worse than the czarist state. Though impressively detailed, the novel is often as static as a museum exhibit, with notes and documents held up for display. Most of the suspense is held for the end, a denouement that reveals Mikhail's identity and Alexander's imaginative theory about the final dispensation of the Romanov jewels. Agent, Marly Rusoff. (Feb.) FYI: Russophiles may want to access Alexander's bibliography, plus copies of the documents that he studied and historical photos, on his Web site: www.thekitchenboy.com. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Drawing on 30 years of research and archival source documents, first novelist Alexander transforms a now-familiar and bloody era of history-the Bolshevik Revolution and the Romanov massacre-into a suspenseful and richly layered account of a family in deadly peril. The story is told from the viewpoint of a surviving witness, the kitchen boy who worked in the house where the Romanovs were imprisoned in 1918. Now an ailing grandfather, Misha records his experiences on tape so that his American granddaughter will know his real history. Tsar Nicholas and his wife, Alexandra, are portrayed as loving but achingly flawed people whose poor judgments lead inexorably to the family's destruction. The Bolsheviks, on the other hand, come off as comic book villains. Because the fate of two Romanov children, Alexei and Marie, is still not known (their bodies were missing from the family's gravesite when it was exhumed in 1991), Alexander's version of what might have befallen them packs a wallop that is surprising but consistent with his story. Sure to entrance readers in most public libraries, this is recommended for most historical fiction collections.-Barbara Conaty, Library of Congress Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.

"Ingenious...Keeps readers guessing through the final pages." --USA Today "A gripping and entirely believable description of the last days of the Romanovs...Thoroughly enjoyable, educational, and just a good old-fashioned page-turner." --Margaret George, author of Mary, Called Magdalene"This is a dream of a book... [Robert Alexander's] tough, stylish prose is the perfect medium for this fast-becoming myth of evil and innocence, of frailty and courage, of betrayal and redemption." --Judith Guest"Through the power of the author's imagination, we see not only the tragedy of the Emperor, but that of a human being, man, and father." --Ivan Artsyshevsky, The Romanov Family Association

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