The compelling quest to solve a great mystery of the twentieth century: the ultimate fate of Russia's last tsar and his family. In July 1991, nine skeletons were exhumed from a shallow grave near Ekaterinburg, Siberia, a few miles from the infamous cellar where the last tsar and his family had been murdered seventy-three years before. Were these the bones of the Romanovs? If so, why were the bones of the two younger Romanovs missing? Was Anna Anderson, celebrated in newspapers, books, and film, really Grand Duchess Anastasia? This book unearths the truth. Pulitzer Prize winner Robert K. Massie presents a colourful panorama of contemporary characters, illuminating the major scientific dispute between Russian experts and a team of Americans, whose findings - along with those of DNA scientists from Russia, America, and the UK - all contributed to solving one of history's most intriguing mysteries.
Massie is the author of the classic, well-documented and meticulously researched book Nicholas and Alexandra. Obviously, still interested in the fate of Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra and their five children, Massie, tenaciously pursued the details surrounding the discovery of the remains in a wooded, secluded area of Ekaterinburg.
The plan to kill the Romanovs was hastily pulled together. Hours before the murders, some of the appointed guards could not follow through when they learned that women and children would be killed.
The execution and disposal of the bodies was macabrely gruesome. On July 17, 1918 the Romanovs, their dog, the family doctor and three servants were ushered into the basement of House of Special Purpose.
They went quietly, assuming that they were moved because the approaching White army might save them. Sadly, eight days later, the White army broke through, too late to rescue them from horrific, violent death ordered by the Bolsheviks.
While Russian bureaucracy still denies a direct link to Lenin in orchestrating the killings, most likely Lenin did indeed pull the strings that orchestrated the murders.
Masse's book follows the trail of the discovery of the nine bodies through DNA testing, giving comprehensive detail regarding the location and state of the bodies.
Clearly, the Romanovs were shot, mutilated, burned and doused with sulfuric acid. The disposal of the bodies was as botched as the killing, originally buried in shallow graves, the bodies were burned and then re buried.
While Masse's book plods along with gruesome details, and some chapters seem redundant, I recommend this book for those interested in the fate of The Romanovs and the political treachery of the Russian communist government.
Soviet bureaucracy would seem to be a given in this situation, but the worst offenders were the Western scientists, the TV mogul who wanted an exclusive, and the various branches of the family. Parts of the story really got bogged down and frustrating as various parties argued about who had authority over the bodies, who should do the DNA testing, who should pay for what, who should report to whom...it seemed endless.
The book also contains two really interesting examinations; of the numerous impostors of the royal family, and the surviving members of the Romanov family and their various ambitions concerning the Russian throne.
The book was written in 1995, before the discovery of the bodies of Alexis and the last sister, most likely Anastasia.
Massie paints a stark and realistic picture of the murder, and uses various sources to describe what was done to the bodies and the disinformation put out by the fledgling Soviet government: that the family was dead there was little doubt, but until the bodies were found and identified there would always be a smidgeon of doubt - the smidgeon that gave rise to dozens of imposters.
More than 20 years after writing Nicholas and Alexandra, Massie revisited the state of play in the Romanov saga: he details the story of how the bodies were found in 1991, the process of identification using DNA and other methods, the problems within the Russian Orthodox Church at home and abroad, and the various branches of the Romanov family competing for the title of Pretender to the Throne of all the Russias.
The story is exciting as any novel and the writing is a page-turning delight: unfortunately, as I discovered too late, the book was published in 1995 leaving 20 years of history and a myriad questions unexamined. The mystery of the where-abouts of two of the Royal children, the mystery of the missing Grand-Duchess, the mystery of the kissing suitcase, the issue of the funeral - issues left hanging because, in 1995, there were no answers.
The Romanovs: The Final Chapter is like reading a really good thriller, only to find the titular final chapter is missing. By the way, I should add I read the book deep into the countryside, many hours away from access to Google and the answers: possibly I may have been less irked by the age of the book had I immediate internet access and could find the answers as I read.