Thursday, January 08, 2015

The Ashes of Loda - Andrew Garve

Tim Quainton is a British reporter stationed in Russia, but he's back home for vacation, and he meets Marya, and they fall in love quickly. Marya's father was a Polish chemist who survived the concentration camps and moved to England when Marya was little to settle. But when Tim mentions his new lady to a colleague, the colleague remembers her father's name vaguely, and it turns out he was convicted in absentia by the Soviets for war crimes. Tim brings it up to Marya, and the fact he isn't quite swayed by Stefan's explanation, causes Marya to break things off with Tim. So when he returns to the Soviet Union - for a larger feature on the difficulties Russian industries face in the winter - he starts digging. And even though everything he finds seems to confirm his worst fears, he winds up on the run.

The extended bit where Tim is on the run was well done, because Garve was able to give a good idea of the difficulties someone trying to escape authorities in the middle of the Soviet Union. The distances to cover, the dangers of Russian winter, all the layers of bureaucracy put in place to make quick, discreet movement difficult. So that was good. Some of the interaction between Tim and Marya didn't work as well. I'm a little surprised that Tim would put any stock in a Soviet trial of someone who wasn't even there. I mean, it's happening in the 1960s, and he's actually lived in the Soviet Union for the majority of the previous few years. He knows how big a joke their legal system was. I guess his hope that if he could prove it was a frame-up would patch things up with Marya made a certain amount of sense from his perspective. I couldn't see it meaning much to her, since she could reasonably say, "Why wouldn't you just trust me when I tell you my dad isn't a war criminal?"

Still and all, a decent little adventure story. I think the book's pace is slightly faster than Counterstroke, but that might have just been me expecting things to go wrong faster once he was back in the Soviet Union. I mean, you know asking questions in the USSR never leads anyplace good.

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