The straggle to depose a Gorbachev-style Soviet premier draws in a fabulously clever old CIA operative, the world's most daring trapeze artiste, the latest incarnation of Brahma, a prince of darkness, many patient monks, and the nastiest teen-ager one could ask for. Moscow appears to be out of control. Someone or some ones are killing off Americans without official permission. Opinions abound. Among them: the KGB has broken its leash and hopes to instigate a war; the CIA wants to embarrass the Russians and hopes to instigate a war; the deposed premier wants to embarrass the new premier and hopes to instigate a war. To clear things up, the CIA sends Andrew Starcher, a troublesome old Virginia aristrocrat who is also an absolute genius as an agent. Starcher, a master of disguise and a man with years of experience in Russia, suspects the involvement of ""Nichevo,"" a secret and independent organization headed by aristocratic Alexander Zharkov, the Prince of Darkness, a man Starcher thought to have been eliminated in Cuba. If it is in fact Zharkov, there is only one person in the world who can take him on--reluctant demigod Justin Gilead, a divine man who has had it up to here with slaughter and just wants to hang out in the Himalayas. But the duel between Zharkov and Gilead was foretold by the ancients and is, therefore, inevitable. Large doses of mysticism and magic make heavy going of what could have been a perfectly good thriller.