The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Nicola Martin is a London art dealer with a secret. When she touches an object, she sees glimpses of its past. Because of her family's history in oppressive Russia, she keeps her gift a secret. Then a woman comes to the gallery with a small wooden firebird, hoping it will bring her enough money to fulfill her dream of traveling around the world. When Nicola touches it, she gets a glimpse of a scene from the time of Peter the Great. However, her boss tells the woman her Firebird isn't valuable. But Nicola knows the woman is dying of a hereditary disease and decides to do her own investigation. But for that she needs the help of someone whose psychic talents are stronger than her own. She turns to Rob McMorran, a young Scottish policeman she once knew.
I've read several books by Susanna Kearsley and she is rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors. So far, her books have been set in Britain, so Firebird, with its Russian theme, seemed a departure. But as I began reading, familiar characters popped up. I was delighted to meet the grown-up Rob, whom I first met as a fey child in The Shadowy Horses and who is just as charming as an adult. And as he and Nicola continue to follow the trail of the Firebird, we learn the story of Anna, the child born to 18th c. characters from The Winter Sea.
Nicola and Rob follow Anna's wanderings from Scotland to Belgium as she is brought to safety with her Jacobite uncle. Later she becomes ward of Admiral Thomas Gordon and travels with him to St. Petersburg where he helps Peter the Great build his Navy.
Kearsley does a good job of interweaving the historical and contemporary stories. I found the glimpse into the Jacobite community in St. Petersburg a fascinating piece of unknown history.
If you enjoy the "story within a story" like Possession or The French Lieutenant's Woman, only with happier endings, give this one a try.
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PS: Dear FCC, I pre-ordered a Kindle copy.