This novel continues the story of Leo Dormidov and his wife Raisa, as the third and last part of the trilogy comprising Child 44 and The Secret. Leo has left the KGB, but his training has left him sceptical of the regime. He and Raisa have adopted two daughters, and he is trying not to exert too much control over the daughters lives. There are plans to hold a series of concerts in the USA starting at the United Nations where children from both the USSR and USA will sing together in the hope of engendering some comradeship among the children and possibly some defrosting of relations between the two countries. Raisa is given the job of managing the Russian choir. She has significant success. However, she is shot after the concert and the details are covered up in a conspiracy between the Russians and the FBI.
The book as ever is very evocative of the times in both countries. The McCarthy era in the US has ironically created a similar atmosphere as that in Russia, where there is distrust of neighbours and friends.
Leo wants to investigate the crime, but is not allowed to leave Russia. He tries to cross into Finland but is captured in the attempt. He is spared Siberia, but must rejoin the KGB as a training officer in Afghanistan.
The book is descriptive of life for Russian soldiers in Kabul, although Leo integrates into the community better than most Russian soldiers. His guilt about Raisa's death and his failure to investigate leads him into an opium addiction.
The story loses some of the cohesion seen in the first of the trilogy largely due to the elapsed time. He does manage to escape to New York, and finds out the truth. The reason for the books title does not arise until near the end of the novel. The resolution of the case is a major anti-climax, I felt and was quite disappointing. The Russians eventually threaten his adopted daughters if he does not return to Russia.
Overall, the descriptiveness of life in post-Stalin Russia, Afghanistan under Russian rule, and the USA during the McCarthy era/FBI harassment of suspected communists, makes the novel a worthwhile read. However the story is disjointed and often disappointing.