McBride is painting in the Yorkshire Dales, staying at an old pub. He walks up a path through the woods with his painting gear and notices a young woman looking down the hill through binoculars. She is not bird-watching but studying an encampment of demonstrators.
Back in his pub that evening, she is standing at the bar. After she knows he is not one of the demonstrators she agrees to meet him in the bar after dinner to explain what she was doing in the woods.
Her brother is a freelance journalist who has gone missing. He was investigating the demonstrators who oppose fracking. She asks McBride if he will help her find him.
McBride, searching for excitement after a long period of painting, agrees he will.
He joins the demonstrators, allowing himself to be captured and taken to Russia and imprisoned in an old Russian gulag.
McBride finds the brother, Ben, and plots their escape. The Russian SVR follow them all the way as they try to get back to England across the Baltic and North Sea.