Dima Krasnov is a Russian oligarch who enlists an English couple, Gail Perkins and Perry Makepiece to help him find refuge in England for his family and himself in exchange for information about corrupt financial exchanges that involve European governments and businessmen. Gail Perkins and Perry Makepiece have just arrived on Antigua where they are taking a spring vacation when they encounter Dima Krasnov and his extended family. Gail is a barrister with an office in London and an apartment in Primrose Hill north of London. Perry is a tutor at Oxford who is a talented amateur athlete especially in tennis. They are discussing their future plans. Perry wants to leave Oxford while Gail is interested in furthering her legal career. At the resort Perry plays tennis with the other guests when Dima challenges him to a game.
Dima is an overwhelming presence. He is the head of the Arena Trading Conglomerate which launders money for the seven-member Brotherhood whose leader is the Prince. He plans to sell off his business in June and move to England. He believes the Prince can not be trusted since he just killed Dima's protege and his wife and reveals secrets to the Russian government. Dima fears he may be next.
Dima lives with his wife Tamara who suffers from PTSD from being tortured in a Russian prison. She refused to give up information about her own criminal enterprises and now has become very religious and essentially mute. They have fourteen-year twin sons and care for the daughters of the murdered Misha and Olga. Another member of the household is Dima's daughter Natasha, who spends her days reading from first edition and leather- bound books. Tamara resents her because she had a different mother who was killed by a vengeful husband when he learned of the affair with Dima. The household also includes bodyguards and nannies. When they arrive at the beach they sit in the same places and watch Gail and Perry.
Gail eventually befriends Natasha and plays with the girls.
After losing the tennis match with Perry, Dima invites them to a birthday party for his sons. He meets separately with Perry to discuss confidential business while Gail is sent to watch Tamara pray. As they are leaving Dima asks them to serve as intermediaries for his plan. Later Tamara sends them two tickets for the Men's Final of the French Open. The Final is scheduled for the week before Dima expects to sell his business.
When Gail and Perry return to London, Perry writes a report about his experience and contacts the Secret Service (MI-5?). They meet with Yvonne, Ollie and Luke who are part of a special section headed by Hector Meredith. The mandate of the section is to investigate corruption within the government. Yvonne takes files from different agencies. The files are copied and returned that evening before they are missed. The group is familiar with politicians and financiers with ties to Dima and the Russian mafia. These men include Aubrey Longrigg, Hector's predecessor when Hector worked in another department and now a Member of Parliament. Others are Emilio del Oro, who serves as the Prince's paymaster and Bunny Popham, an attorney who provides legal services to the financiers.
Luke and Hector had worked together in the past. Luke had just returned from Bogata, Colombia where he was beaten after having an affair with a man he was monitoring. He had a desk job and was on a list to retire when Hector recruited him for the new team. Hector himself had recently returned to the Secret Service after gaining notoriety for saving his family's business by using the slogan of vulgar capitalism. He works with Billy Boy Matlock who can be skeptical of Hector's role.
After debriefing Perry and Gail the team arranges their trip to Paris. They meet Dima at the Open. He challenges Perry to another tennis match. During their preparations for the match Perry introduces Dima to the team. The match is played in the rain. Afterwards Dima meets with the Russian Brotherhood and signs off on half of his business. He plans to complete the deal four days later in Bern, Switzerland. Gail and Perry return to London and then fly to Bern. At the hotel where the meeting takes place, they see Longrigg and del Oro as well as the Brotherhood. Luke manages to get Dima out of the hotel after the signing by beating up two bodyguards who were not expected to be there. Ollie puts the family members in a wagon and drives them to the mountains. The Secret Service rented a house in Wengen where they wait until plans are finalized for the trip to England.
Luke and Ollie are worried that the escape has been found out since they see suspicious people in the town and worry about the bodyguards whose appearance was a surprise. Gail had a diversion before arriving in Wengen. She had to find Natasha who told her she was pregnant. Natasha had gone off to find her lover who was a skiing instructor only to learn he was married. Gail arranged for her return to the family. Dima was not told of the pregnancy, but Tamara noticed and was verbally abusive to her.
In London Hector was encountering serious obstacles to the relocation. He and Billy Matlock were censured by a committee of the Secret Service for action that would harm Longrigg personally or financially. Their work with Dima was considered part of a retaliatory scheme. Nevertheless Hector arranged for a private plane to take Dima to England.
When the departure date is set up, Luke tells them that only Dima can go. He is hesitant about the trip and implies that the family would follow if Dima provides sufficient information. Dima appears crushed and resigned as he leaves his family. Luke, Ollie and Perry take him to the airport which is all dark. Perry and Ollie return to Wengen while Luke and Dima board the plane. It explodes in mid-air and crashes, killing all on board. The press is mystified to find not only the bodies of the two pilots but also the corpses of a former official from the British embassy in Bogata and a Russian oligarch.
Best part of story, including ending:
Enjoyed the pacing of the story after the group goes to Paris and Bern. The escape at the end is very exciting. It was easy to visualize the cars and carts crossing the mountains to Wengen.
Best scene in story:
Favorite scene is in the hotel in Bern when Luke helps Dima escape. It involves many people in different contexts and hints at the risks to come.
Opinion about the main character:
In this story Dima is the main character almost by default. Gail, Perry, Hector, Luke and Ollie are part of an ensemble. Dima is overbearing in almost a stereotypical slavic way and so can be two-dimensional.