Devious Charlie Muffin--Freemantle's immensely engaging stormy petrel of British intelligence (Charlie's Apprentice, 1994, etc.)- -proves as clever at thwarting terrorist threats to the New World Order as he ever was at outwitting the West's Cold War foes. Posted to anarchic post-Communist Moscow to monitor the illicit trade in nuclear materials, Charlie reluctantly joins forces with America's resident FBI agent, an eager young beaver named James Kestler. Charlie also establishes contact with Aleksai Popov, operational commander of the Interior Ministry's anti- smuggling unit, which is headed by Natalia Fedova, the ex-KGB operative who loved and lost Charlie after bearing his daughter, Sasha (Comrade Charlie, 1992). Tipped off that a powerful Russian crime family plans to steal radioactive fuel rods from a decommissioned power plant, Popov grudgingly brings Charlie and Kestler into the game. While special forces foil that theft, another mafia crew hijacks a government train with enough plutonium to make over 40 good-sized bombs. As high Kremlin officials scramble to protect themselves and gain credit for recovery of the few lost canisters that turn up in Moscow, Charlie proceeds on the theory that the successful heist was an inside job. His cost- conscious masters in London reluctantly permit him to mount a sting operation in which Charlie, posing as a no-questions-asked arms dealer, brokers a sale of the purloined plutonium to front-men for Iraq on behalf of a Moscow mob racked by internal strife. His suspicions confirmed, Charlie stays calm, cool, and collected while all about him (including the hapless Kestler) are losing their heads or their lives during a climactic shoot-out in an East German warehouse. Permanently assigned to Moscow in the wake of a gratifying triumph, Charlie looks forward to renewing acquaintance with Natalia and Sasha. A first-rate addition to a deservedly popular series, one whose chilling plot is no more bizarre than contemporary headlines.