As Stalin's great terror begins, a killer strikes. Moscow, 1936. A young woman's mutilated body is found on an alter in a deconsecrated church. Korolev is asked to investigate. The victim is discovered to be an American citizen, and now one false move will mean exile to the Zone, the frozen camps of the far north.
It is 1937, and Captain Alexei Korolev finds himself on an airplane bound for Odessa after the suspicious suicide of a loyal young party member who supposedly had an illicit relationship with the party director. His instructions are to determine if her suicide was actually a cover-up for murder, and if so, to find her killer. She was working on the set of a movie subsidized by the state, and the pool of possible suspects is large and daunting.