This book begins at the end of the Romanov story, with their execution in Ekaterinburg in 1917. It is effectively about what happened afterwards: the discovery of the gravesite, the attempts to identify the bodies, the mystery over the missing bodies, the various individuals claiming over the years to be the missing Tsarevich and Anastasia, such as the famous Anna Anderson, the political factions fighting for control of the bodies, the fate of the surviving Romanovs.
It's a very good read, although I recognise a lot of the material from Massie's Nicholas & Alexandra - some passages are almost identical. But I suppose authors are allowed to plagiarise themselves! I could have done with less of an in-depth look into the science of DNA testing and forensic pathology, but I understand the necessity of it.
I understand there is an updated version of this book due to be published in the autumn this year, which will obviously address one or two of the issues I had with this book, namely that a lot has happened since it was published in 1995! The mystery of the two missing bodies - the Tsarevich and one of the young Grand Duchesses - has been resolved with the discovery of two bodies in 2007, subsequently proved to be the two missing children.
If you don't know the story yet, then this book reads like a mystery. Even if you do, it's worth a read. It is an excellent look into how forensic anthropology can solve some of history's greatest mysteries. Robert K. Massie's book is a little outdated, as since 2007 all 11 bodies have now been found, but the story of the discovery of the first 9 and the subsequent quest to identify them is still fascinating.
He spends a large part of the book on the mystery of Anna Anderson and the DNA tests to identify her, but since then another book has come out The Resurrection of the Romanovs: Anastasia, Anna Anderson, and the World's Greatest Royal Mystery which details this drama to a much larger degree. It may be worth it to read this book first, for an overview, and then tackle the other. However, in this book Massie also mentions some other "children of the tsar" which appeared here and there, and they are also worth reading about.
All in all, I would recommend this book, especially if the story of the Romanov's intrigues you, but it is great just as a mystery story, albeit a true one.
A somewhat macabre tale, due to the real life tragedy. I wasn't sure after the first few chapters of the book if I could go on to finish it, such was the gruesomeness of the tale. But it became another story, a piecing together of what really happened, and the eventual use of DNA testing to establish whether or not those who purported to be survivors of this massacre were genuine or not. It does get bogged down a bit in the minutiae of DNA testing, and which camp was the most prestigious to be able to carry out the task, but in the end I was really pleased to have read it, and to learn of the mystery solved.
I thought this might be a summary of what finally happened to the Romanovs with some background, but what you get us all the infighting of the scientists and experts that examined th bones and all the cranks who claimed to have survived the executions. A book that really did not need to be written like this.
The latest Kindle version downloaded in December 2015 sadly still doesn't contain any updates on the discoveries of 2007 which was a little frustrating. Overall though, this book was fascinating and has made me want to research more about the Romanovs.
For anyone interested in the author's book "Nicholas and Alexandra" the final chapter of what happened to the Romanovs will be of great interest. It is a very well written account of the last days of the Romanovs and the subsequent investigation into their murders. It gives eye witness accounts from the firing squad who murdered them and macabre details about how they disposed of their bodies. It took decades to find the truth of what really happened to the family and their servants as the new regime did everything they could to deny and cover-up what they had done. The cover up also extended to the British royal family for their part in rejecting the opportunity to give the family asylum in the UK. Through the passage of time, new investigations and developments such as DNA testing were scientists able to get closer to the truth of what happened to the Romanovs. Even then there was some controversy and confusion about what happened to a couple of the family members, including the young Tsarevitch who was only 13 years old when he was murdered and one of the Grand Duchesses. This led to various imposters such as Anna Anderson claiming they were the missing Tsarevitch and Duchess. These claims were eventually dismissed as hoaxes. It did give the surviving Romanovs, including the Tsar's mother who never accepted that her son and his family had been murdered, hope that the family had survived the massacre.
This is more for students of forensics than history, with more attention paid to body identification than anything else. I wish there had been something a little further on the (presumably) ongoing search for the two missing bodies.