While covering the stalled Arab-Israeli peace talks in Moscow, an American reporter learns that the Syrians are trying to recruit nuclear scientists from a tottering post-Soviet Russia. Former Newsweek correspondent Cullen (Twilight of Empire, 1991) brings the novel of international intrigue brilliantly up to date. American Weekly bureau chief Colin Burke hasn't filed a cover story in ages and is under a lot of pressure from New York. When he's approached (and seduced) by a sexy Israeli operative, she tips him off that a shadowy Arab named Kassim is using an oil company called Switsico as a front for Syria's president, Hafez el-Assad; Ethan Worthington, the US Embassy science officer, confirms the suspicions about Kassim. When Burke gets yet another tip--this time from the voluptuous Katya, a young prostitute working for Kassim- -the trail leads to the forbidden, ``secret'' industrial city of Nauchny Gorodok. There he gets an exclusive interview with a physicist named Nekronov who claims he's been offered a half- million dollars per year to help develop the bomb for Syria. Burke is ready to file, but New York wants photos. So he has to sneak back into the city. This time he's accompanied by Plotnikov, a clownish mathematician who says he wants to learn journalism. They're arrested shortly after Plotnikov makes a mysterious phone call. Burke is warned off the story by Russian security police. He begins to suspect a setup, that Nekronov may in fact be a ringer used by the Israelis to discredit Assad. Or is it a ploy by former KGB agents clinging to the last strands of power? When he finds Katya with her throat slit, and when the beautiful Israeli agent is shot before his eyes, Burke realizes that sometimes things are, indeed, what they seem. A smashing mix of suspense, sex, humor, danger, and cynicism.