It seems I can’t walk into a bookstore anymore without spotting instances of the same artwork having been employed on different book covers. The latest instance of duplication to catch my attention comes from Eye of the Red Tsar (Bantam), a debut novel by American fictonist Sam Eastland.
Eastland’s story holds plenty of drama, building as it does upon the legendary assassination of Russian Tsar Nicholas II and his family in 1918. A decade after that gruesome act of rebellion, the Tsar’s former trusted secret agent, Pekkala--now imprisoned in a Siberian labor camp--is told there’s a way to earn his release. What does he have to do? No less than catch the killers who terminated Russia’s monarchy with bullets, and retrieve the Romanov child said to have survived that massacre. As the flap copy on Eastland’s book reads: “Find the bodies, Pekkala is told, and you will find your freedom. Find the survivor of that bloody night and you will change history.”
Unfortunately, this thriller’s jacket promises less novelty. The principle photograph comes from Getty Images, a prominent stock photo company based in Seattle, Washington, and is titled “Snowy entranceway to an estate near Saint Petersburg.” It’s the same illustration that was used in the composite cover for the 2008 paperback edition of another Russia-set historical work, R.N. Morris’ The Gentle Axe. As far as I’m concerned, Axe’s cover--with its bloody footprints and running boy--does a superior job of using this shot. Designer Joe Montgomery’s front for Eye of the Red Tsar, while it adds a scarlet tint to the trees outside that St. Petersburg estate, is considerably less dramatic, with its foreground image of a slowly walking figure.
As it happens, my file of copycat covers contains yet another Russia-related example: the front from Grand Central Publishing’s brand-new paperback edition of The Secret Speech, the sophomore novel from young British writer Tom Rob Smith (Child 44). The photo of a person strolling with a bag through Moscow’s Red Square on The Secret Speech is the identical one that graced the jackets of Stray Dog Winter (MacAdam/Cage), by David Francis, and the Penguin hardcover edition of The Unpossessed City, by Jon Fasman, both released in 2008.
I’ve said it before, but I shall say it again: If you spot additional examples of copycat covers, especially on crime novels, please e-mail them to me. I’ll post more such fronts as they become available.