The fearless reporter Tatiana Petrovna falls to her death from a sixth-floor window in Moscow the same week that a mob billionaire, Grisha Grigo-renko, is shot and buried with the trappings due a lord. No one else makes the connection, but Arkady Renko is transfixed by the tapes he discovers of Tatiana's voice describing horrific crimes in words that are at odds with the Kremlin' s official versions. The trail leads to Kaliningrad, a Cold War " secret city" that is separated by hundreds of miles from the rest of Russia. The more Arkady delves into Tatiana' s past, the more she leads him into a surreal world of wandering sand dunes, abandoned children, and a notebook written in the personal code of a dead translator. Finally, in a lethal race to uncover what the translator knew, Arkady makes a startling discovery that draws him still deeper into Tatiana' s past--and, paradoxically, into Russia' s future, where bulletproof cars, poets, corruption of the Baltic Fleet, and a butcher for hire combine to give Kaliningrad the "distinction" of having the highest crime rate in Russia.