This is the first life of Sarah, Countess Rumford"" -- so runs the opening sentence of a Preface which summarizes the incredible career of Count Rumford, Sarah's father, -- from store- assistant in New England to administrator in Munich, world-scientist, spy in hiding, Commander-in-Chief of the Bavarian Army, etc. Did he die in 1814 -- or disappear as his daughter thought? How closely linked were their lives? March Cost, whose gift for melding fact and fiction, realism and fantasy, has been evidenced in earlier works, has chosen to tell a dual story as if the major part was recounted by Sarah to a ""stranger"" on a park bench in London, in an effort-through the past- to capture the present. There's a Berkeley Square aura though action is all in retrospect, and it is not wholly successful. One has a sense of getting an amazing tale filtered through a veil of memory rather than at first hand. But that it is a tale worth telling about two people worth knowing is indisputable. An immense amount of research and study has gone into the preparation- and whole areas of little known history come to life here.