American journalist Hetzer’s first novel portrays the intrigues of Communist Russia during the last days of the Cold War. Hetzer is founder of The Moscow Times. Like most Soviet apparatchiks, Victor Perov is a guarded man. An astrophysicist of world renown, he grew up in a devoutly Communist home: his twin brother Anton died leading a command of troops in Afghanistan, and his mother is a high Party official so fierce that she’s been nicknamed “The Iron Perova.” But Victor has his soft spots, and when he’s assigned to a joint Soviet-American research program, he lets his guard down long enough to fall in love with US scientist Katherine Sears. From Katherine and her dissident contacts, he learns that his brother is not really dead but imprisoned in a government “psychiatric center.” Unable to believe that Anton is still alive, he agrees to meet with Pavel Danilov, a nurse and ambulance driver who has spent years secretly compiling records of the Party’s psychiatric gulags—but Pavel is killed just before he can tell Victor where Anton is being held. In the course of investigating Pavel’s death, Victor meets Major Tarasov, a disillusioned KGB officer who agrees to help him find Anton. Tarasov claims that a mysterious snub-nosed refugee lost somewhere in the Siberian frontier holds the key to Anton’s whereabouts. But who is this man, and how can Victor find him? Is Victor being set up? When you can—t trust your own mother, the world becomes a pretty hostile place, and Victor has to think about the safety of Katherine, as well as the fate of his brother, in getting to the bottom of the very tangled snake-pit of late—Communist Russia. Well-paced and exciting, with crisp dialogue, believable setups, and first-rate atmosphere: a page-turner in the best tradition of le CarrÇ and Martin Cruz Smith.