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Synthesizing a variety of sources, British historian Rappaport (Joseph Stalin) details the Romanovs' last two weeks, imprisoned in a cramped private house in Ekaterinburg, a violently anti-czarist industrial city in the Ural Mountains where Nicholas II; his wife, Alexandra; and their five children were executed on July 17, 1918. The czar's rescue was a low priority for the Allies, and several escape plots by Russian monarchists came to naught. A lax guard was replaced by a rigorous new regime on July 4, headed by Yakov Yurovsky, whose family's impoverished Siberian exile had fueled his burning hatred for the imperial family, and his ruthless assistant and surrogate son, Grigory Nikulin. How the last czar and his family died was one of Russia's best-kept secrets for decades, and Rappaport spares none of the gory details of the panicked bloodbath (it took an entire clip of bullets to finish off the czarevitch because an undergarment sewn with jewels protected the boy's torso) and botched burial of the corpses. Although parts of the Romanov saga are familiar and Rappaport's sympathy for the czar often seems naïve, this is an absorbing, lucid and authoritative work. 16 pages of photos. (Feb. 3)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.