It is August 1991, only a few days before the political uprising which effectively marked the end of Mikhail Gorbachev's power and the collapse of the USSR. Hardliners and reformers are vying for power and glory in the Soviet political police - the KGB.
Maksim Mikhailovich Rukov is right at the heart of the struggle. From a military post in the middle of Siberia, Comrade Rukov has been transferred to the KGB's recently-formed Department P - for reasons he doesn't need to know.
His brief: to investigate cases of corruption inside the KGB itself.
As Rukov begins to tug at the sordid fabric of Soviet political and criminal life, he exposes one terrible secret after another.
How he faces the challenges ahead will determine his success: it could prove the difference between a new age of democracy....or a new reign of repression.