A robust, energetically plotted weave of major and minor dramas mainly within upper-caste circles just before and during the Russian Revolution, featuring: a US spy/assassin pegged out to stifle a German plot to support the Bolsheviks and undermine the Russian government; an on-going investigation of a string of sadistic murders; the wavering fortunes of a brewery family, forthrightly named ""Smirnoff""; a pair of young lovers who escape just in time from a villainous Bolshie-come-lately; and brief views of the prevailing horrors with glimpses of such as the Tsar's family, Rasputin, even Lenin. It all begins peacefully and elegantly in 1913 at an Imperial Ball, where young Tatiana Makcheyeva expects a proposal from her adored Sergei Tretyako. But Sergei will wed her friend Katrina, and poor Tatiana is forced into an engagement with hateful, blackmailing Boris Abrikosov--who, however, gets sexually violent and is sent off to Siberia after being beaten by stalwart Vladimir Smirnoff (who'll become Tatiana's true love). Concurrent with these strenuous love tangles is the mystery of terrible murders of young girls, doggedly investigated by the inspector Guchkov. And the wild card in the rapidly hardening positions of Whites, Reds, and anxious intellectuals is the American, David Castle--who will track down the German connection fueling the Revolution, do his share of killing, lose the woman he loves through a plot to assassinate him. . . and, at the close, he'll Sidney Carton a last-minute escape for Tatiana and Vladimir via a dandy blackmail of Lenin and a sacrificial rub-out of Boris (now a Commissar of the Bolsheviks). There are predictable scenes of dreadful slaughter and atrocities, with a bravura use of historical events, but mainly this is an engrossing, fast, solid melodrama told with ease and spirit: diverting period fare.