Kolmysky Heights - Lionel Davidson

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Kolmysky Heights - Lionel Davidson

Post by Graham on Mon Feb 05, 2018 2:13 pm

I bought this in a charity shop because it had a sticker on the front: Introduced by Philip Pullman ‘The best thriller I’ve ever read’. A third of the way through I thought this must be the only thriller he’s ever read. It was not badly written but nothing out of the ordinary. Strange messages arrive for an Oxford professor seemingly from a hidden location in the Russian arctic. The secret services become involved and an old acquaintance of the professor’s is recruited to penetrate the Russian research station. He is Johnny Porter, a multilingual Native American scholar and all-round hero.

The story became even duller when he was inside the secret establishment and the contact Rogachev, who happens to be the chief scientist, spends a good chunk of the book detailing their research into man-ape hybrids, cures for blindness and disruptive electromagnetic pulses.

I settled down to read one night about 11. There was a third of the book to go and Porter had to get out of Siberia with the help of Kamarova, the local medic who has conveniently fallen in love with him after he stops short of breaking her neck. To my surprise the story, the pace, the writing, everything picked up and I didn’t put it down till I finished at 1.30 am. On the strength of that last third I have to agree with Pullman. I have never been so enthralled by a book. In retrospect most of the opening, the research backstory aside, was necessary. It also lulls you into a false sense of ‘yeah, he’ll manage it easily enough,’ which makes the finish all the more nerve-racking, a dash across Siberia with the full might of the Russian military in pursuit. Davidson consistently ups the tension and at each turn you can’t believe there is any escape for Porter.

I give it four and a half out of five.

Graham
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