Not many historians can fuse so many different layers of history and then deliver the product in so accessible a form. This ability was the late Bruce Lincoln's great strength. In his twelfth and last book, he interlaces with remarkable ease a running description of daily life in St. Petersburg over three convulsive centuries with an account of high politics centered on the imperial court. He then blends the two stories with a spare but pointed exploration of cultural trends that flowed from and around this grandest of Russian cities. He uses the narratives to penetrate the more subtle mystery of how this intentionally alien creation of Peter the Great and his successors could join and shape Russian history. Not only will the general reader take pleasure in this book, it would be hard to imagine a better travel companion for someone on the way to St. Petersburg, even veteran visitors who think they know the city well. Start reading beforehand -- you won't finish on the plane over.