Moscow lies deep under snow, and Arkady Renko is back from his most recent murder investigation in the exclusion zone around Chernobyl.
Very soon he is on the trail of a suspect police officer, a former Black Beret who served with full glory against the insurgency in Chechnya. But proof of the man's corruption is proving more elusive to gather. Then his unpopular boss calls him in to head up a delicate matter: passengers riding the last metro of the night have reported seeing the ghost of Stalin waving to them from the platform edge. Every night at the same time, regular as clockwork.
meanwhile, his adopted son, Zhenya has disappeared, and his girlfriend, Eva, has reignited an affair with the very officer Renko is investigating.
Renko is assigned the help of an expert Stalinist, a decorated war hero and chess grandmaster. Not everyone, it seems likes the fact that Stalin is dead...