When Professor Michael Rayback parades past the American Embassy in Moscow along with thousands of Russians protesting the August 1991 coup against Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the American's thoughts are on Russia's future, not its past. But the face of a loved one in the crowd drives Rayback back to a power struggle that has haunted him for seven years. In 1984, with an infirm General Secretary on the verge of death or retirement, contenders for power had begun to jockey for position. One of the front-runners, known in Finnish State Police Archives as Big Fish could be eliminated by exposure of a page from his past. A KGB colonel is sent to New York City to discover what Rayback knows about the identity of Big Fish based on his archival research in Helsinki. The KGB colonel also plants the seed of American involvement in a plot to assassinate a member of the Soviet Politburo. When the assassination takes place, Moscow and Washington join hands to unravel three threads in the web of intrigue: personal ambition, self-preservation, and abrogation of a nearly completed treaty on anti-satellite space weapons.
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