A debut novel in which post-glasnost relationships revert to mid-century mistrust--thanks to a jetliner full of Soviet bigwigs that plunges into the Pacific on its approach to San Francisco. There's something fishy about the crash of the Ilyushin from the start. Why was it 70 miles off course when it finally showed up on American radar after its flight from Vladivostok? Why didn't the pilot stop talking to the air controllers? Why didn't he respond to the Air Force fighters sent up to check him out? Did the missile that was accidentally fired by the American fighter actually hit the Soviets--or did the Russian take a dive? And why did the jetliner seem to be looking for a specific spot in the ocean before diving in? Was it coincidence that the crash was so close to a Soviet naval task force? Within minutes of the disaster, U.S.A.F. Col. Jack Phillips, Russian speaker and scholar, gets the order to sort things out. Greatly complicating Phillips' task is the involvement of a couple of network newspersons--presidential pal and Cold War hard-liner Alexander Braxton and his beautiful protÃ‰gÃ‰e Christine Merrill. On account of Braxton's powerful connections, he and Christine get to shadow all of Phillips' movements. And all those movements seem to be known in advance by somebody who doesn't want the mystery cleared up. Everything points to the involvement of the Stalinist Soviet defense minister--who was supposed to have been on the plane when it went in the drink. . . A moderately ingenious plot is stretched a bit too far.