Historical biographies don't come much better than this one. The author uses a great deal of original material newly released from the archives in Russia as well as his interviews with survivors and relatives. Far from being the "Grey Blur" of legend, Stalin comes across as having used considerable charm, intellect and humour in controlling those around him. His close and loving relationship to his daughter, Svetlana, is thoroughly explored (she was later to defect to the USA and denounce her father). There are fascinating anecdotes on every page, as Stalin comes across as a passionate believer of Marxism-Leninism holding `court' like a medieval monarch. Indeed, Bolshevism was Stalin's religion and the slightest sign of doubt anyone showed in their `belief' was justification for them to be arrested, tortured, killed or sent to Gulags. Nobody was safe including those closest to Stalin. Countless numbers of innocent people and their families perished in `the Great Terror' and this book deals particularly well with the circumstances around this terrible event. The book enables the reader to have a far greater understanding of what made Stalin and his perverse system of government tick. It covers Stalin's leadership in World War II and the aftermath of the war when the dictator became increasingly paranoid and unpredictable. The circumstances of the dictator's death reveal so much about the regime, as his henchmen were too scared to call a doctor for days (Stalin hated doctors, and was in the process of purging them). When doctors finally arrived they were shaking with fear so much they couldn't take a pulse! Although the details are horrific at times, I strongly recommend this book, especially to students of 20th Century history.