Kolymsky Heights by Lionel Davidson

Deep in the heart of the Siberian wilderness lies an underground Russian research station. It is a place so secret that officially it doesn’t exist, and once there the scientists recruited are forbidden to leave and must remain for the rest of their natural lives.

Yet there is one scientist who is desperate to share his secret with the outside world. So desperate he sends out a set of secret coded messages in the hopes that they will eventually get in to the right hands. And that these hands will belong to the one man who can actually make it there and back alive.

Kolymsky Heights feels very much like your standard Cold War era thriller, however it takes place closer to the mid to late 1990’s. In it, an aging Oxford professor receives a strange message from an unknown sender. The message is encoded and only after decoding it does the professor realize who sent it and what he wants. In an eventual somewhat convoluted series of events, the message makes its way to Johnny Porter – our eventual hero.

If, dear reader, you are the kind of person who watches any spy thriller or James Bond movie and wonders ‘Well, how did he get that vehicle?’ or some such, then this is certainly the book for you. Kolmysky Heights goes in to GREAT detail – quite literally over half of the book – following Porter as he makes his way from the United States to Japan an eventually in to Russia. There is so much detail given, that quite honestly I found it boring and tedious.

The beginning of the book, with its set up and introduction of characters was interesting; and the last 100 or so pages of the book with Porter trying to make his escape was quite thrilling. It was the entire middle section, around 250 pages I believe, that I could easily have done without. This is a decent sized book at almost 500 pages, and to me it could have been handled just as well in half the number.

I know there are readers who enjoy this kind of ‘slow burn’ type of book. While I generally enjoy them too, at times I found Kolmysky Heights to be so slow burning as to be at a near stand still.

Readers who enjoy these kinds of stories will likely enjoy this one. I wish I could say I did.

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