A young orthopedist in rural Nebraska and a fugitive from a Siberian gulag are all that stand between the US and devastation at the hands of a Cold War enemy. Dr. George Duval witnesses a fiery truck accident on a country road. Unable to help either of the men who die in the crash, he takes some pictures of the scene and reports the incident to the local sheriff. A subsequent investigation discloses no sign of an accident, let alone bodies, and the photos are unaccountably blurred. Deeply suspicious, George sends soil samples from the site to a university chum for analysis. Informed that he has forwarded the makings of a thermonuclear device, George quickly concludes that the US has mounted a broken-arrow cover-up. When his offices are ransacked and friends start meeting violent ends, the apprehensive physician takes it on the lam with live-in lover Michelle Falk. As it happens, they're fleeing agents of General Uri Saratov, an embittered veteran of Afghanistan who's determined to engineer Russia's second coming as a superpower. Unbeknownst to the Kremlin, he is masterminding a horrific conspiracy; his handpicked operatives have smuggled 60-odd hydrogen bombs (cunningly disguised as industrial boilers) into as many American cities. Meanwhile, Leonid Ushta (an academic incarcerated for a crime of passion) breaks out of a remote prison camp whose inmates have been building an immense ground-wave transmitter with which the plotters plan to detonate the H-bombs they've secreted in the US. Once in the clear, Ushta conveys what he knows to a CIA agent. Previously lulled into a false sense of security by Moscow's unilateral disarmament moves, Washington wakes up at the 11th hour. With information from George (who's come in from the cold) and Ushta to guide them, the feds maneuver frantically to halt Saratov's doomsday countdown. A diverting and workmanlike debut thriller from Sheppard, a former longtime Pentagon correspondent for ABC-TV.
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