Review of Killing Rasputin – The Murder That Ended The Russian Empire – by Margarita Nelipa


When I was just a kid (about nine years old) my mother took me to see the film Nicholas and Alexandra.  Mom was the person that got me into true crime.  She tried to cover my eyes when they executed the royal family.  She failed.  It was not anywhere near as shocking as the stuff we see on TV now, but at the time, it was pretty violent.  In that respect, I miss the 1970’s.

That film was my first introduction to the story of Rasputin, the “Mad Monk.”  I’ve read about the fate of the Czar and his family and Rasputin is hopelessly intertwined into their saga.  We’ve all heard the legend.  Rasputin was stabbed, poisoned, shot, choked, and drowned – all on the same night – and seemed to defy death at each attempt.

Margarita Nelipa has tackled the Rasputin murder with the keen eyes of both a historian and a true crime author.  This is not your typical true crime fare, nor could it be.  To unravel what happened to Rasputin you have to understand the inner court politics and the myriad of figures and gadflies that ensnared the royal family.

Having written a historical true crime myself, (Sawney Bean) I understand the daunting challenge she had to face as a historian.  This book is more like an academic study of the murder of the monk, rather than a standard true crime story.  In that respect I liked it.  It is the kind of book you might expect from a university press, burrowing deep in the details necessary to set the stage for the events that led to Rasputin’s demise.

My only struggle with the prose was navigating the often confusing names of the characters.  There were a few times I confused some characters because their names were so similar.  This is not a complaint but more of a warning for readers.  If you are looking for a simplified account of Rasputin’s death, this is not the book for you.  This books bridges the gap between the rigor of a historian’s keen eye and the tantalizing lure of a sordid murder.

Ms. Nelipa’s research seems three-steps beyond solid.  I found a swelling pang of envy in the depth of her digging.  She has most likely broken new ground in the murder of Rasputin, though I confess this is not my field of study.  I will say this, she has given me a as a reader, a much more in-depth understanding of the man as both a historical figure and the victim of a heinous murder.

Overall, I found it a nice break from the usual menu choices for true crime.  If you enjoy in-depth historical research intertwined with a murderous saga that had a mark on history, then this is a book for you.

You can get the book here, on Amazon.  Killing Rasputin


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