A jumble of incompatible episodes centering on Russian-American confrontations on the German autobahn in 1958-64, which mainly involves the plight of Franklin Shelting, a State Department man interned on a mission in East Germany. Concerned in the sifting of clues anent Shelting's fate are Petra, a German girl with heart in the West and family in the East; Shelting's wife, Christine; assorted brass and spies on both sides; a dunderhead newsman and an unsavory ""movie producer."" Both Petra and Christine are approached by the East for espionage services. But Christine, opting for higher rewards than her husband's return, and Petra, surviving some rough interrogation, both strike for the right and ante up for the West. Shelting, at the close, is still held, but it is presumed he will eventually be traded for his opposite number. The ingredients are there but they do not mesh.