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December 22, 1996|CHARLES SOLOMON

THE ROMANOVS: The Final Chapter by Robert K. Massie (Ballantine: 308 pp., $12.95, illustrated). In 1991, investigators discovered an unmarked grave in Siberia that contained nine skeletons. Using forensic and genetic tests, an international team of scientists determined that the skeletons were the bones of Nicholas II, Alexandra, three of their daughters, their physician and two servants.

Massie's account of the murder of the Russian imperial family combines the best elements of a history text and a detective story. Massie also recounts the legal battles to obtain the tissue samples needed to verify the claims of the various "Anastasias," all of whom were impostors. Meanwhile, the remains of the last czar and his family rest in a pathology laboratory, while Russian politicians debate an appropriate burial site.

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