At the height of the Cold War, a dead woman turns up in a bomb shelter.
Black River Falls used to be a boring small town, but at the pinnacle of the Cuban Missile Crisis, nowhere in America can be boring anymore. As the country awaits nuclear annihilation, Iowa gubernatorial favorite Ross Murdoch has a crisis of his own: There is a dead woman in his bomb shelter.
Murdoch tells his lawyer, Sam McCain, that the corpse was planted there by his enemies in the local police force, and begs McCain to clear his name before Election Day. The dead woman was mistress to four of the town’s most powerful men - any of whom might have wanted her dead. As the nation’s nuclear paranoia reaches a fever pitch, McCain searches for a killer and learns that there are certain kinds of disaster for which even the finest bomb shelter is no match.