A young Englishman called John Ormond, employed as a translator by a Helsinki language school, suddenly disappears without leaving a trace. Subsequent enquiries made at the bequest of the British Embassy lead to a dead end, but several unusual features of the case warrant the interest of Scotland Yard, who send one of their most experienced Special Branch agents, Inspector George Mason, to re-open the case. He contacts Major Viljo Forsenius, a Helsinki police chief, who hands him a dossier containing all known facts about Ormond and a pocket diary listing names and telephone numbers of the translator’s associates. Mason visits Ormond’s apartment and also discovers a Russian novel presented to Ormond by an individual named Maxim just before the translator’s disappearance. Mason then contacts all persons listed in the diary and meets Ormond’s girlfriend, Helvi. It transpires that Helvi’s uncle, Paavo Kilpinen, had contacts with a prominent Russian author who fled to the West about the same time Ormond disappeared, carrying a book manuscript the Russian authorities are determined to suppress. Ormond, a keen Russophile, had been entrusted with translating the book into English. When Mason’s attempts at tracing Ormond prove inconclusive, Scotland Yard instruct him to concentrate on recovering the important manuscript. Are Ormond and the manuscript to be found together, or have they somehow become separated? Did Ormond defect with it to Russia with Maxim, or was he abducted there by Russian agents? As Mason’s investigations slowly proceed, he realizes that his movements are being closely shadowed by unknown parties after the same quarry. Will Inspector Mason beat them to it? Will John Ormond eventually resurface? The action of the story unfolds against an authentically described background of Finland in winter, involving George Mason in sauna baths, cross-country skiing and Helsinki night-life dur- ing the course of his investigations.
The author, seen here at Lucerne while vacationing in the Bernese Oberland, has spent his main career in education. His published writings include four collections of poetry, some serial fiction, travel journalism and a travel memoir, South of Lapland, relating impressions of Northern Finland. He draws on his extensive travels in Europe as background for this intriguing spy-detective novel set aboard a Danube River cruise during the Communist era, evoking the characteristic period atmosphere of Budapest, Belgrade and Bucharest. Married, with three grown children, he is currently living in New England.