This is history as an exclamation point. For the general reader who wants an easily digested, sweeping essay on 500 years of Russian history, bound to a theme, this will be an attractive book. The theme is that Russian history remains at its core the ruthless and unresolved relationship between state and society, which, in turn, can be reduced to the place of murder in the exercise of power. Murder, a word used to capture everything from assassination to mass purges, stands at the center of the "Russian syndrome." All this makes for interesting reading, but only by forcing a rich history into a stark mold, one that many historians will find hard to accept.