A dense and often plodding thriller--more cold-war espionage--from the author of The Berkut (1987), etc. In early 1961, on the eve of the Vienna Summit in which new President Kennedy and Russian Premier Khrushchev will first take each other's measure, disaster looms. An elaborate plot by Russian conservatives is designed to bring about Khrushchev's downfall and death at the hands of Albanian assassins. A psychotic CIA agent with a murderous dual personality, frustrated because his personal plan to bring down the Albanian government has been thwarted, targets JFK for assassination. Both the US and Soviet governments are trying to piece together various clues about these situations. On the Soviet side is the Soviet Operations Group, first featured in The Berkut; leading the American effort is former CIA operative Beau Valentine, also from the earlier book. Heywood doesn't make it easy for the reader, what with quick cuts from scene to scene (no more than four pages at a stretch for the most part, often fewer), myriad new and recurring characters and relationships, and regular dead-end (emphasis on ""dead"") results to most investigative trails. All is leavened with generous dollops of hard sex and brutal violence. Much here to provoke serious thought--the manner in which a single piece of intelligence information can affect the course of history; how the Bay of Pigs fiasco might have colored Khrushchev's impression of JFK and US policy; etc.--but only a truly persevering reader will make the full journey down all the novel's labyrinthine pathways.