An exhaustive examination of the repercussions which follow the shooting of Comrade Tulayev, a man responsible for many purges and deportations, this follows the lives of those who are innocently involved in the reprisals which take place. Within three days, the secret police has arrested 67 persons varying from high diplomatic officials to shabby nonentities. The case drags on for months as more than a thousand dossiers are compiled and investigated. And in the end, after some are ruined, others exiled, and still others killed Kostya, the murderer, anonymously confesses to the crime which closes the case though he is apparently never caught. In a stream of conscience style, the book takes up each chief suspect in turn, moving backward in time to his or her early life and forward to the aftermath of the investigation and arrest.