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'Hidden Account of the Romanovs' banks on action

| Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014, 8:00 p.m.

Every dictator has a Swiss bank account, or so we assume, his insurance policy against what he really deserves — the boot.

Maybe even a legitimate ruler, the last Russian tsar, stashed away rubles and rubies in Switzerland before being murdered by Communists in World War I with his queen and all their kids, which left no heirs to all that compound interest piling up like snow in the Alps.

But wait. Was every last princess actually slaughtered in that orgy of bloodletting perhaps ordered, but without fingerprints, by Lenin himself?

Such is the mystery that triggers John Browne's novel, “Hidden Account of the Romanovs.” The title perhaps suggests a tale too bankerly. In fact, it's packed with action.

Fictional hero Alex Fanshawe dodges shrapnel (but not all of it) in the horrors of the trenches, then again in the bullet-spitting skies of the early Royal Flying Corps. Just the resourceful fellow for British Intelligence to send to St. Petersburg to assassinate Grigory Rasputin. The sinister monk schemed to get Russia out of the war with Germany, thus an obvious threat to the Brits. A younger Churchill and Stalin take supporting roles in Browne's reconstruction of bloody 1914-20, a time frame that correctly grafts Russia's civil war onto the “war to end wars.”

How ironic that Browne's novel, close, personal and suspenseful, seems more real and even more informative than most histories of those infuriatingly futile conflicts.

The author should be no stranger to Trib Total Media readers. He's the retired soldier and parliamentarian who, as Sunday business columnist, warns of land mines ahead if central banks (like our Fed) keep cheapening their countries' currencies.

Jack Markowitz is a columnist for Trib Total Media.

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