4.0 out of 5 stars Nina Revskaya, a former Prima ballerina now confined to a wheelchair, prepares to auction off her fabulous jewelry collection. Drew Brooks is the representative from the auction house handling the event, and is intrigued when an anonymous donor gives them an Amber necklace – a necklace that seems to be a matched pair with the bracelet and earrings from Nina’s collection. The mysterious donor is recently widowed Grigori Solodin, who received the necklace  from his adopted parents, along with some unsigned letters in Russian.

Grigori believes these pieces reveal the identity of his birth parents, and he thinks Nina is the key – but she’s not talking. As Drew and Grigori eventually come together and try to solve the puzzle of the Amber suite and how it connects them all, Nina reflects back on her life in Russia as a premier dancer in the Bolshoi Ballet and her marriage to poet Viktor Elsin.  

In the end, I did enjoy this a lot and thought it was an excellent first book for Kalotay. Not surprising, but I enjoyed the bits in the past more than the present and found the images of life in Stalin’s Russia terrifying – I can’t imagine having to walk around on eggshells day in and day out for fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. I never did warm up to Drew and Grigori, nor to the present day Nina and while I thought I had the big ta-da figured out Kalotay pulled a fast one out at the end that I hadn’t seen coming. A fair part of this novel is set in present day Boston, so if you’re expecting to spend all 400+ pages in Soviet Russia, think again. A good book, but the slower pacing might not appeal to all readers, especially if jewels, auctions and the ballet don’t hold much interest.

FTC, copy courtesy of Amazon Vine.