Rating: 5 stars
Dr. Steven Russell’s grandfather, Charlie, is dying. And in his pain, Charlie keeps calling out two mens names, that of Gregori and Alexi. When Steven asks who those men are Charlie begins to tell his grandson a story, one he has never heard before, that of Charlie’s time in the Army in WWII. Charlie tells Steven that when he meet a Ukrainian war photographer, his live divided into two parts, that of “before Gregori and after Gregori”. Charlie tells Steven a horrific story of a mass execution that Gregori photographed and asks Steven to bring Gregori’s old camera to him in the hospital. Charlie also gets Steven to promise to find Alexi, Gregori’s grandson and make sure he is safe. But when Steven returns to the hospital with the camera, his grandfather has already died and Steven has a promise to keep.
But there is so much more going on than just a promise. When Steven pulled out the camera from its storage place, he noticed its mint condition and looked into the lens. To his utter astonishment, he sees exactly what Gregori saw that day in the Katyn Forest when over 23,000 people were slaughtered and dumped in a mass burial to be hidden. Steven can smell the oder of the guns and feel the cold creep into his bones. Looking into the camera, he is there with Gregori as it happens. And then Gregory and Charlie start to speak to him and tell Steven that he has to help Alexi right the wrongs and save the spirits of the two old men.
All his life, Steven has lead a self indulgent, golden life. Now to honor his promise to Charlie, he must leave it all behind to go to the Ukraine to find Alexi Temchanko a Ukrainian journalist investigating the old crime. While they have never met, they have talked on the phone, and the attraction Steven feels for the journalist is unsettling as is the fact that Gregori is still speaking to him, telling him that time is running out and Alexi is in danger. There are people all around them trying to stop the truth from coming out. Will Steven get to Alexi in time to save him and honor his promise to the ghosts of two men depending upon him as well?
Gregori’s Ghost is a wonder of a story on so many levels. We have an historical element based on fact, that of Katyn massacre, a mass execution of Polish citizens in 1940. Then around this monstrous crime Black builds a tale of family, obligation, honor and love. Sarah Black is an expert on old men, as crazy as that sounds. She knows how they sound and how they move and her characters resonate with authenticity of age and knowledge, how I loved Gregori and Charlie. But Steven Russell is something of a new character for her. He is a “golden boy”, a neurologist who is emotionally removed from everyone around him with the exception of his grandfather, who sees the true Steven. He is a bit of a cad, taking from lovers and never giving of himself. But Black takes this unlovable character and makes him grow and discard his shallow lifestyle to carry out his grandfather’s wishes. But there is no personality transplant but a realistic difficult change that Steven has to undergo. It is just so very well done that I came to like Steven by the end of the story. But Gregori’s Ghost is peopled with characters you will come to love and entrust with your affections, including Gregori and Charlie, the two entwined men who start it all.
On top of her characterizations, Sarah Black gives us a mystical element, that of the ghosts or spirits of Gregori and Charlie who continue to talk or berate Steven into action. The author gives her ghosts as many layers as her living persons, right down to their sexuality as well. Gregori finds himself tempted by the gorgeous Steven and gives in to their mutual sexual needs in several stirring scenes. How you feel about the supernatural might dictate what you feel about this part of the book, but I ask you to just go with it because the end is worth it all.
But most impressive is that Gregori’s Ghost is so different in that her traditional love of the land is missing here. Unlike all her other books where the characters are as wedded to the land as they are to each other, here the landscape is reduced to a minor supporting role. Instead of the land being the characters foundation, it is each other that provides the emotional and mental support they need to go forward. With the exception of Steven, Alexi, Gregori, and Charlie are men who by their nature and the circumstances they find themselves in, are men pared down to their core. In pain, dying, they still act with honor and determination, something Steven learns along the way. Like I said , a remarkable book. Now this great book is free at All Romance Books. Find it here and download it for free. Run, don’t walk to the nearest computer and get it. I hope you will love it as much as I do. And while you are there, pick up some other Sarah Black books, starting with Marathon Cowboys. You will want them all.
The Legend of the Apache Kid by Sarah Black , review here
Marathon Cowboys by Sarah Black, review here