In this new book of fiction, Ken Kalfus plucks individual lives from the stew of a century of Russian history and serves them up in tales that range from hair-raising to comic to fabulous. The title story follows a nuclear power plant worker as he hawks a most unusual package on the black market - a canister of weapons-grade plutonium (Pu-239). "Budyonnovsk" skewers the relationship between Moscow and Chechnya. "Salt" is an economic fairy tale, featuring kings, princesses, and swiftly melting currencies. The novella "Peredelkino" traces the fortunes of an editor and critic during the liberalizing 1960s who faces, among other things, the prospect of reviewing historical fictionby one "L. I. Brezhnev."