Book Review: Murderers in Mausoleums

As Jeffrey Tayler points out in his new book Murderers in Mausoleums: Riding the Back Roads of Empire Between Moscow and Beijing, we hear a whole lot about Moscow and Beijing in the news these days – and thousands more tourists visit each city every month – but we don’t hear much at all about the places in between.

cas168From the vantage point of someone who has lived in Russia since 1993, and can speak Russian, Turkish and enough Mandarin to chat with locals along the way, Tayler set out on a journey to figure out what’s going on in the twenty-first century version of these places in between. He traveled from Moscow across the Caucasus, through Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and on through northern China to Beijing – an overland trip of some 7,200 miles.

When you open Murderers in Mausoleums you might initially get the sense that this will be a heavy-going historical and political narrative, but that’s only because Tayler includes the necessary background of Russian and Chinese history before he sets off on his journey. Get past that and out of the city, and the book focuses on the local people that he meets on his travels, with plenty of insightful descriptions of person and place but no didactic sociology lessons. It’s a great read about a part of the world that is set to become increasingly influential in the coming years, and about places that more travelers are likely to set foot in, too.
Creative Commons License photo credit: AlphaTangoBravo / Adam Baker