American businessfolk confront post-Soviet Russian reality in Holland's (Moscow Twilight, 1992) sleepy new thriller. When Yankee entrepreneur Brad Chapman runs afoul of the Moscow authorities after the suspicious death of his Russian partner (they've provided an alternative to the feeble Soviet postal system), he calls on lawyer pal Alex Fall to spring him from the pokey. However, nothing is easy in Russia as the collapsed Communist superpower fumbles toward market reforms. The legal bureaucracy dictates that Alex, a foreigner, can't represent Brad's case, so Fall turns to Mikhail Slavin, a savvy if rumpled attorney who understands the often baffling Russian judicial maze. At the source of Brad's woes is a gang of Russia-for-Russians--drunks, former party hacks, and a Ministry of Security general nostalgic for the good old days--who want to steal the American's company. On the good-guy flip side of this nasty, leftover nomenklatura is Alex's old flame, Inna Korneva, a people's deputy struggling to thwart corrupt opportunism in a post-communist world thick with thieves, gangsters, and black marketeers. Alex also has eyes for Brad's wife, Joanna, but his main devotion is to his client- -fortunately for Brad, whose trial, at the hands of an earthy judge from the lumpen proletariat, goes badly for the defense. With unexpected help from the case's chief investigator, Alex, Mikhail, and Inna gradually slip the pieces into place, but not without suffering some knocks: Alex gets cruised by Brad's slutty mistress (later, she's found dead); a pair of ex-KGB goons threaten Mikhail; and Inna has to flee barefoot from an assassination attempt. Everything builds to a fairly prosaic courtroom drama, which the author unsuccessfully attempts to jazz up with some gunplay. Holland knows Russia and Russians, but his thriller is juiceless. What could have been a clever update of Kafka ends up sounding merely authentic.