A second appearance for Brooklyn's Midge Cohen (Date with a Dead Doctor, 1991)--a 30-ish, divorced, struggling children's-book author, who's fluent in Russian and whose matchmaking mother Pearl is a dental receptionist. It's through Pearl that Midge finds herself at a dinner meeting with Simon Brent-Waterhouse, owner of Sirin Press, longtime publisher of works by dissident Russians. Also present are recently arrived sexpot Polina Volkova; Peter O'Connell, head of Russian studies at Queens College; and Victor Pedlar, agent for a book by Polina that promises assorted scandals about Russian VIPs, past and present. Rights to the book--ceded, on paper, by Polina to Simon years before--provide the focus for the meeting, which ends inconclusively, leaving Midge with lots of unanswered questions. Simon's apparent suicide later that night fires an unbelieving Midge into further exploration of the dinner guests--their hidden motives and muddled lives. Midge's frenetic crusade, though, makes no more sense than the plotting or subplotting of this chaotic story--which eventually renders charmless even its initially engaging heroine.