Just days after the end of the USSR, a mysterious priest becomes a martyr In service of his beloved Orthodox Church, Father Merhum has spent decades battling Soviet apparatchiks and the KGB. Now the Soviet Union is gone, but the bureaucracy survives, and the aged priest makes plans to denounce Communist supporters, including some within the Church. He is on his way to Moscow when an assassin stops him with an ax. And as he dies, Merhum begs for forgiveness--a curious plea from a saint-to-be. The case falls to police inspectors Porfiry Rostnikov and Emil Karpo--a ruthless detective whose eerie appearance has earned him the nickname "the vampire." But as they dig into the past of this celebrated village priest, they uncover strange church secrets and a conspiracy that would ensure that though Soviet Russia is finished, corruption will never die.