A journalist's memoirs of his years in the Soviet Union, years that happened to coincide with the triple play of Andropov-to-Chernenko-to-Gorbachev. Doder spent the years 1981 through 1985 as Moscow bureau chief for the Washington Post. From that vantage point, he was able to accumulate a wealth of details on the intrigue and machinations that abound in the mysterious Kremlin. Doder opens with a fascinating account of his serendipitous realization that Andropov had died, which led him to report that fact to the Post a full day prior to the American State Department's knowledge of that event. His clues? 1), Watching Soviet TV, Doder noticed that a new official made his first televised speech minus an obligatory greeting to the people from Andropov. 2), Following the speech, a scheduled program featuring the Swedish pop group, Abba, was replaced by a program of classical music. 3), A scheduled jazz program on the radio later that night was also changed to classical music. From such things is the Kremlin deciphered. There are some surprises that emerge from this anecdotal account. For the first time we see Andropov, often remembered as a cruel KGB leader, as a man of poetic inclinations who wrote sonnets to his wife and was one of the few top Soviet officials who never had a mistress. (""Let them laugh at the poet/And let them envy us doubly/Because I write sonnets to my own wife/And not to another man's."") Like the many other current offerings on Russia since Brezhnev, Doder's tries to fathom the current occupant of the highest post. Basically, he sees Gorbachev as leading a second wave of de-Stalinization, a follow-up to Khruschev's 60's gambit. A welcome addition to a field fraught with heavy-handedness.