When he was preparing to preside at the burial of the remains of Tsar Nicholas Romanov II and his family in St. Petersburg in 1998, Father Boris Glebov is reported to have said: "I really don't know who I am burying." During the service a few days later, the priest was forbidden to utter the names of the victims, because the Russian Orthodox Church refused to acknowledge the authenticity of the bones. Unswerved, President Boris Yeltsin asserting that "we must tell the truth" attended the ceremony and declared, "By burying the innocent victims we want to expiate the sins of our ancestors." In The Secret Plot to Save the Tsar, author Shay McNeal begins to do what even glasnost has failed to accomplish: effectively penetrate the thick layers of fabricated and suppressed Russian history. She dismisses Yeltsin's comments as a politically correct attempt at closure, and she raises unsettling questions about the results of DNA tests on what the government insists were the bones of Russia's last tsar, his wife Alexandra and three of their five children.

In the decades since the 1918 execution of the Romanovs, a number of claimants have appeared, asserting they were the children who miraculously survived the massacre. Their stories have kindled an avalanche of books, movies and documentaries. More than rehashing these tales, McNeal widens the scope of the Romanov tragedy by tracing complicated relationships and complex intrigues that she says form a chain of events emanating from an international plot to spare the life of the tsar. She cites evidence linking the plot to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, England's King George V, Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm and even to Russia's double-dealing V.I. Lenin. The author brings superb research efforts to this book. Her sleuthing is at its best when she pits previously neglected documents and newly declassified files against official versions, thereby producing perplexing discrepancies and contradictions and thus assuring that one of the greatest mysteries of the last century will continue to frustrate international historians and fascinate Romanov aficionados.

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