THE KITCHEN BOY by Robert Alexander
Every story starts somewhere, a kernel of an idea that germinates, with any luck, into the backbone of a book. For me, that moment came when I read the final page of Empress Alexandra’s diary, written just a few hours before the murder of Russia’s last imperial family. Completely unsuspecting of what was soon to transpire, Alexandra recorded how their kitchen boy, Leonid Sednyov, was suddenly and oddly taken away by the Bolsheviks. My attention was caught by this small fact, and further research revealed that Leonka, as they called him, was led across the street to the guardhouse, whereupon he disappeared without a trace into the fury of the Russian Revolution.
Wait a minute, I clearly remember thinking, of those held under house arrest with Nicholas and Alexandra, there was actually a survivor? Of the seven Romanovs and their five attendants, there were not twelve people killed in that small basement room, but eleven? Most definitely so. It further struck me that this kitchen boy, Leonka, who was born in 1904, could still be alive. After all, I knew very well my great-great Aunt Flora, who was born the last year of the Civil War.
My mind started churning. If the tsar’s kitchen boy could be found today, what would he be able to tell us about those last weeks, days, and hours of Nicholas and Alexandra? Would the real Leonka be able to explain what really transpired on that fateful night of July 16-17, 1918? After all, even with so many facts now unearthed, the mysteries of what happened are more perplexing than ever. Yes, there really was a series of secret rescue notes to the Tsar—but who wrote them and was there ever an actual rescue attempt? And, yes, there really were two suitcases full of priceless Romanov gems, one of which Stalin’s henchmen finally found in 1933—but where is the other, still buried in Siberia or…? And while we know that Nicholas and Alexandra’s four beautiful daughters suffered horribly upon their deaths because they were wearing corsets packed with a total of nineteen pounds of diamonds (thereby making the corsets bulletproof), all of the bodies have yet to be found. As strange as it may seem, in 1991, the very day after Boris Yeltsin’s inauguration, the hidden mass grave of the Romanovs was finally discovered and opened, only to reveal an enigma inside a puzzle: the bodies of two of the Tsar’s children were missing.
Secret rescue plans to save the Tsar? Over $500 million dollars of missing tsarist jewels? Two missing bodies, those of a grand duchess (Maria, not Anastasia) and the young heir, Aleksei? I couldn’t resist, couldn’t believe that no one had yet used the magic of fiction to dramatize the first truly heinous crime of the century, the one that perhaps set the stage for all the rest.
To me this is a “what if” book: what if the last living witness of the Romanov murders were not only alive and well, but living in Chicago? Starting with this premise, what I’ve tried to do is not only write a fictional eyewitness account of the murders of Nicholas and Alexandra, but write a novel that uses fiction to solve the mysteries the facts have left forever inexplicable.
About the author
Robert Alexander is a pen name of R. D. Zimmerman. A graduate of Michigan State University, Mr. Alexander has also studied at Leningrad State University and has lived and traveled extensively in the former Soviet Union. In researching The Kitchen Boy, Mr. Alexander gained access to Russian archives and palaces that are closed to the general public. Under his own name, he has written numerous mystery novels, including Hostage, Outburst, and Innuendo: A Todd Mills Mystery. Robert Alexander currently makes his home in Minneapolis.