Nicholas, a high-flying British lawyer in Moscow, works on behalf of foreign banks that lend money to Russian businesses. At the beginning of the novel, Nicholas acts for a consortium of western banks on a five-hundred-million-dollar loan for a joint venture involving two firms, a logistics business and Narodneft, a giant state energy company. Together, they propose to construct a floating oil terminal in the Barents Sea. The venture turns out to be a scam. While Nicholas works on this operation, he is seduced by Masha, an unscrupulous gold-digger who uses Nicholas to rip off a sweet old lady, Tatiana Vladimirovna, who is sold a nonexistent flat in exchange for her central flat in Moscow, a deal that Nicholas unwittingly legalises. Meanwhile, he is also requested to investigate the disappearance of a friend of one of his neighbours, who turns out dead at the end of the story, killed to gain possession of his property, one of the many corpses buried in the snow that emerge when the snow melts, referred to as snowdrops.
The three stories do not have anything in common, but, together, they reveal the corruption and degradation that hides underneath the artificial façade of neon lights, new elite restaurants and nightclubs in Putin’s Russia, a country where “there are no business stories. And there are no politics stories. There are no love stories. There are only crime stories” (Miller 2011: 84). Even though new money floods the country, nothing has changed and, amidst the skyscrapers where corrupt politicians and western expats do business, Russia is the selfsame chaotic place it was before the Soviet Union disintegrated, a ruthless scene that “like polonium … attacks all your organs at once” and can, like Lariam, “make you have wild dreams and jump out of the window” (Miller 2011: 83, 151).