Kaminsky moves closer to becoming the Ed McBain of Mother Russia with this tale of two felonies, as Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov--in his seventh outing (Rostnikov's Vacation, 1991, etc.)--investigates the murder of elderly, politically outspoken Father Vasili Merhum in the village of Arkush, while his deputy Sasha Tkach--newly and uncomfortably partnered with Elena Timofeyeva--competes with a stone killer to comb the hot-spots of Moscow searching for Amira Durahaman, daughter of the Syrian oil minister. The only link between the two cases--the fact that Colonel Lunacharski of the KGB, hot for a public- relations coup that will consolidate his conservative political position, is plotting to steal Rostnikov's credit for solving both of them--leads to a magically effective epilogue. The usual strengths of the series--ingenious plotting, solid police procedure, and Rostnikov's shrewdly perceptive presence--are joined here by casually effective glimpses of the old Soviet Union in chancy transition. It all adds up to Rostnikov's best outing since A Cold Red Sunrise (1988).