With the collapse of the evil Soviet empire, where can an ethical Russian cop like Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov (Death of a Russian Priest, 1992, etc.) find moral tussles within the system? In Cuba, of course, and that's where Rostnikov ends up when his scheming boss pulls him off the conveniently timed death of the Kazakhistani foreign minister and packs him off to Havana to review the case of Igor Shemenkov, a Russian engineer under arrest for the murder of his inamorata, hotel worker Maria Fernandez. As Rostnikov threads his way through a maze of intriguers--from Javier Fuentes, the Santer°a fundamentalist who threatened Fernandez's life, to Major Fernando Sanchez, the police liaison officer who's obviously dogging his every move-- his deputies back in Moscow, led by obstinate Emil Karpo (the Vampire), are equally busy, struggling to close the case of the Ax, a serial killer who's murdered 40 citizens over a five-year period. We know from the beginning that the Ax is seemingly innocuous Yevgeny Odom, but will Karpo, joining forces with a young ganglord bent on avenging the Ax's latest victim, be able to identify him before he breaks his pattern in his next killing? Though the two stories of Rostnikov abroad and his deputies back home never do come together, either one would be worth a book of its own in this richly rewarding series.