In the faltering Soviet Union, the KGB will do anything to hold on to power .
A Jewish man in a squalid government flat finds a killer in his shower. A young punk girl hurtles naked through the window of her apartment. And in the Crimea, at a health retreat for mid-level functionaries, an aging policeman's death is made to look like heart failure.
It's this last murder that catches Porfiry Rostnikov's attention. The inspector's wife is recovering from brain surgery, and his superiors at the Moscow police insist he accompany her to the Crimea. There he meets Georgi Vasilievich, a former colleague suffering from emphysema, a bad heart, and an inability to stop working. He is investigating a high-level conspiracy when he dies, and Rostnikov inherits the case, putting him on the trail of a gang of hardline security men who refuse to give up the Soviet dream — and who will go to murderous lengths to ensure that perestroika never comes to pass.