While Crusher and Picard attend a conference over the offer by the Venetans to the Tzenkethi to use some of their starbases (those close to Federation, Cardassian and Ferengi space respectively), Dax is joined by SI commander Peter Alden, visiting one of the starbases in question and trying to determine the Tzenkethi motive.
I think the red thread holding this book together is distrust - distrust of enemies in a cold war, distrust of old friends who might have changed too far, distrust of new allies etc. And in the end, a part of the solution which returns a threatening outbreak of open warfare to the cold war situation, is to sow distrust into a people who are blunt and not used to subterfuge and lies. The Tzenkethi are a fascinating people and McCormack spends some time introducing their culture and the makeup of their society. And quite frankly, open slavery and subjugation is one thing, but genetic engineering and "(re)conditioning" so that everybody is happy with the small place that they're granted and not willing and/or able to look beyond is quite the devious scheme.
This book also introduces Peter Alden, a high-strung intelligence officer on the verge of a breakdown, and Corazame, one of said naive Tzenkethi who gets pulled into a spy-extraction plot. We'll see both of them again in "The Missing" and "Enigma Tales" (only Alden).
Overall, an entertaining novel, which unfortunately takes a bit of time to really get going. But once it does, it's hard to put it down... And I said it before: I like Alden, he's an interesting, multi-layered character that I wouldn't mind reading much more of.