Zugzwang: In chess, the state when a player is forced to make moves, but each move one makes only worsens one's predicament.
In St. Petersburg, in 1914, pscyhoanalyst Dr. Otto Spethmann finds himself a suspect in the murder. A widower, Dr. Spethmann is consumed with anxiety for his daughter, whose involvement with a victim makes her a target, as well.
Throughout, he thinks about two troubled patients: one, the daughter of a powerful man; the other, a neurotic chess player in which Spethmann's best friend has shown unusual interest.
The author tries to do a lot here, marrying a historical plot line, the suspense of a chess game, and some elements of noire. Uneven at times, ultimately the suspense is maintained as the plot unfolds.