Murderers in Mausoleums: Book summary and reviews of Murderers in Mausoleums by Jeffrey Tayler

Murderers in Mausoleums

Riding the Back Roads of Empire Between Moscow and Beijing

By Jeffrey Tayler

Murderers in Mausoleums
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2009,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

A gripping journey through some of the planet's most remote and challenging terrain and its peoples, in search of why democracy has yet to thrive in lands it seemed so recently ready to overtake.

Across the largest landmass on earth, from Moscow to Beijing, in lands once conquered by Genghis Khan and exploited by ruthless Communist regimes, autocratic and dictatorial states are again arising, growing wealthy on petrodollars and low-cost manufacturing. More and more, they are challenging the West.

Media reports focus on developments in the two capitals, but the masses of people inhabiting the vast expanses in between remain mostly unseen and unheard, their daily lives and aspirations scarcely better known to us now than they were in Cold War days. Tayler finds, among many others, a dissident Cossack advocating mass beheadings, a Muslim in Kashgar calling on the United States to bomb Beijing, and Chinese youths in Urumqi desiring nothing more than sex, booze, and rock 'n' roll, all while confronting over and over again the contradiction of people who value liberty and the free market, but who worship and idealize tyrants who opposed both.

From the steppes of southern Russia to the conflict-ridden Caucasus Mountains to the deserts of Central Asia and northern China, Tayler shows that our maps have gone blank at the worst possible time.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Tayler conveys his encounters in prose that is as richly textured as the stories he gathers in some of the remotest places imaginable." - Publishers Weekly.

"Tayler ventures at points into Colin Thubron and Robert Kaplan territory, returning with a satisfying narrative." - Kirkus Reviews.

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Rated 2 of 5 of 5 by Carol
Murderers in Mausoleums
The story of a journalist's travels from Moscow through Beijing. The idea to converse with the locals, understand their opinion of their government and their view of the US and the West was a good idea but fell far short of what I had expected. I had difficulty understanding in the outlying republics which are now independent of Russia, the hate for George Bush and the seeming embrace of Putin and authoritarianism. In China the author notes the inhabitants love of Western "culture", i.e. nightclubs, music, dress, vs.the popularity with some of Genghis Khan and the celebration of National Day and Mao The book would have been relevant if the author could have provided a more robust perspective of why these individuals would choose autocratic government vs. democracy. How can the atrocities committed by these leaders not create a drive towards free societies?

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by C
Murderers In Mausoleums
Get out your Atlas as you follow Jeffrey Tayler's travels in Murderers In Mausoleums. The author takes you on a sometimes too detailed trip describing history at great length and spending too much time talking about the landscape as he traveled. While I found that interesting, I would have preferred more about the people he met and the discussions they had about "why democracy isn't thriving" as we Westerners think it should be. Overall, not what I expected from the book jacket description, but interesting nonetheless.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Donna Lynn Edwards
Murderers in Mausoleums
Reading Murderers in Mausoleums, you will gain a vital understanding of Russia and China; their culture, their ideals, their fears, their struggles as our global neighbors. Jeffrey Tayler, is a correspondent whose purpose in writing the book is to find out for himself how the people who were once the oppressed are now viewing a renaissance taking place in their countries. He also wants to talk with the people deep within the country, to get a sense of how they feel about the West, especially the United States. What he hears will astonish you.

The book is a journal of his 7,200 mile trip that begins in Red Square and ends in Tiananmen Square. Travel is undeniably a hardship with many obstacles to overcome. Schedules are not always followed. Passports are checked with no consistency. The ubiquitous guards perusing papers will often hold Tayler for a payoff, or just to be officious and obnoxious. He endures extreme hostile climatic conditions, stress from potential threats to his life and difficult barriers that others would not have endured. I applaud with my deepest respect his valiant pursuit to achieve his goal. Some areas he visited he claims no westerner has ever seen. Amazing!

Murderers in Mausoleums a reference to the leaders who we now know were not rulers as much as murderers, has the excitement of a novel. At the same time it contains a valuable visual and oral history. This plurality creates a harmonious balance that should capture the attention of those readers who shun history books. You will definitely gain more global awareness so necessary in today’s troubled times.

Jeffrey Tayler the transcontinental traveler who stops at nothing to get an interview, offers a rare insiders look from so far away. Shocking and alluring, this book offers both. 5 out of 5

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Diane
Murderers In Mausoleums
I really liked this book. It combines historical background with a fascinating journey through countries which used to be part of the Soviet Union - from Georgia to Kazakhstan and Western China, Jeffrey Tayler paints a portrait of the current economic, cultural and ethnic situations through meetings with local political activists, artists and many others. His descriptions of his hair-raising car and bus journeys make one feel as if you too barely survived them. This book is particularly relevant given the recent incursion by Russia into Georgia. Fascinating and valuable insights into countries which may be in the headlines in the future.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Ganesh Prasad
Russia to China: Past and Present
The most interesting part is the parallel flow of information from the past and the present. Jeffrey Tayler, who seems to know this subject well and also who speaks various languages, has done a very good job of explaining the facts, as he knows, as he interviews and talks to people. He takes us all the way from Russia to China and in the most practical way. Even more interesting is that we are never lost in this journey. I would agree with rest of the readers who have commented that this is an interesting book and I recommend reading this.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Laura
From Moa to Moscow
The world is just starting to recognize the renewed power and strength - both politically and economically - of Russia and China. Yet most of us in the West don't have a clue when it comes to the culture and internal politics that shape them. Jeffrey Tayler's unique book uses a microscope to examine some of the most interesting backwaters in between these two giants. He talks to rebellious Cossacks, Muslim minorities and Genghis Khan worshipping Mongols excavating their fears, motivations and passions. It develops into more of an anthropological or ethnographic study as Tayler gathers stories full of nationalistic fervor and closely held cultural mythologies.

This is an important book for anyone interested in world affairs especially given the recent conflicts in the area.

...7 more reader reviews

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Jeffrey Tayler is a correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly and a contributor to Condé Nast Traveler, Harper's Magazine, and National Geographic. He is the author of many critically acclaimed books, including Facing the Congo, Angry Wind, and River of No Reprieve.

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