Prior to the events of the novel, James Bond had known Paula Vacker for five years having first met her in London during the springtime. Having finished his training exercise within the Arctic Circle, Bond was instructed to return to MI6, but instead he calls to visit Vacker in Helsinki, Finland. When he arrives at her apartment house, Bond is confronted by two knife-wielding Russian men, and after the struggle, he is severely wounded in the shoulder. When Bond questions Vacker if she talked to anyone before his arrival, Vacker replies she discusses work during a dinner date with another colleague named Anni Tudeer. Shortly after, Bond and Vacker enjoyed a salmon dinner before the former departed back to London.
When M is informed of the transpired events, Bond also informs him of Vacker's partner, and a background check reveals Vacker to be of Swedish birth, but with Finnish citizenship. Nevertheless, M scolds Bond for not directly returning to London, and briefs him on a joint operation against the National Socialist Action Army codenamed Operation Icebreaker. The MI6 chief also alerts Bond of a member of the NSAA held in MI6's custody after three British civil servants were killed following trade discussions at the Soviet Embassy. In Icebreaker, Bond is to collaborate with Brad Tirpitz of the CIA, Koyla Mosolov of the KGB, and Rivke Ingber of the Mossad.
Following his meeting with his future collaborators, Bond requests M to provide him a photograph of Tudeer, and subsequently dials for Paula at her apartment with no response. When he arrives at her apartment again, he finds her apartment ransacked, but finds a German Knight's Cross with SS-OBERFÜHER AARNE TUDEER engraved on the reverse side of the metal and a Wehrmacht service metal. He takes the items with him, and rejoins his colleagues following a snow plow chase in Salla, Finland. He eventually receives a photograph of Anni Tuder at the hotel, which is an alias name for Rivke Ingber.
Shortly after Ingber reveals her past, he learns from an operator he had dialed that Vacker is on holiday leave. Bond then talks with Tirpitz until he is interrupted by a waiter who has a call from Vacker for him. On the other end, the voice tells Bond to "say goodbye to Anni" followed by a sinister laugh. Suddenly, during a ski run, Ingber is injured in a land mine, and quickly taken away by hospice officials. Along with Mosolov, Bond and Tirpitz accompany him to Count von Glöda's Ice Palace inside the Soviet Union. Upon arriving at the Ice Palace, Paula is there, and appears to be associated with von Glöda. When the Nazi mastermind reveals his plans to establish a Fourth Reich, von Glöda desires for Bond to reveal whether MI6 has custody of a NSAA member. Bond repeatedly denies knowledge of this, and is subjected to water torture to reveal the answer. When the procedure fails, Bond finds himself in bed next to Rivke, who was never injured during the land mine explosion, and reveals that London indeed has a NSAA official in custody. Paula reappears, kills Rivke, and reveals to Bond that Rivke was affiliated with her father after all being groomed to be the next Führer.
Vacker escorts Bond to her headquarters where she reveals to Bond that she is an intelligence officer of SUPO (Suojelupoliisi). When Mosolov finds their hide-out, he tells them that Russian forces are launching airstrikes to destroy the Ice Palace, which they later witness, and return back to Helsinki. On their way back, Paula clears up that her intelligence agency knew Rivke Ingber was Anni Tudeer all along, she worked under orders of Koyla and SUPO, and the knife incident occurred when SUPO informed Kolya of Bond's arrival (in which the knife men were to take him Department V, formerly known SMERSH). That same night, Bond is confronted by Koslov again who had administrated Vacker with a small injection that will leave her unconscious for six to seven hours. Bond kills the KGB agent, and von Glöda at the airport where he attempts to escape Finland. At the hospital, Bond is reunited with Vacker.