"Cruz Smith weaves such wonderful words and brings to the fore Arkady’s fascination with a woman he never met but whom he comes to admire through her tape recordings."
It all starts with a funeral. Not anybody Arkady mourns – in fact, he is pleased to see the back of the person lying in the coffin. His name was Grisha Grigorenko and he was a bad man. He was revered, feared and ultimately assassinated. And now his son, Alexi is muscling in on his father's business with an unseemly rapidity.
After the funeral, Arkady becomes embroiled in an organised protest. An investigative journalist has been thrown off her apartment balcony. Now her body is missing from the morgue and Arkady Renko becomes determined that her body and the manner of her death must not be brushed under the carpet. The verdict was suicide but Arkady believes there is more to Tatiana's death that needs to be explained. Soon, a notepad full of symbols drops in to Arkady's hands, notes on a very important meeting that need to be translated. But the translator who wrote them has been found dead on a beach in Kaliningrad, shot.
Arkady decides that answers lie in Kaliningrad where Tatiana's only surviving family member: her sister, lives. It is during his time in Kaliningrad that everything starts to unravel.