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Forget the Spy Who Came In From the Cold, meet the spy who went out into the cold, the really, really cold.  When a Russian scientist, working at a mysterious research station in Siberia, manages to get a cryptic message to the West, it is determined that he's summoning Dr. Johnny Porter, born Jean-Baptiste Porteur--a part Gitksan Indian, Rhodes Scholar, anthropologist, who speaks any number of languages.  The two had met many years earlier, and out of a sense of obligation, Porter agrees to sneak into the installation and find out what's so important.  What follows is one of the better thrillers of the post Cold War era, as Porter impersonating various people of Asiatic descent, while displaying extraordinary resourcefulness at myriad tasks, penetrates deep into Russian territory and then, pursued by all of the forces of the new Russia, strikes out across the icy barrens of the Kolymsky Region of Siberia and the area around the Bering Straits, in a mad dash back to the States.

The case of Lionel Davidson is one of the strangest of any recent author.  He writes award-winning, best sellers every few years, but I doubt more than a handful of folks remember him from one book to the next and all of his stuff seems to be out of print right now.  In Kolymsky Heights, he combines elements of Michael Crichton, Smilla's Sense of Snow, and Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko series to produce a novel that's exciting enough in it's own right but is even more remarkable for it's unusual hero and for the way that Davidson uses the hostile environment, both natural and man-made.  Though a general and helicopters and Russian troops all pursue him, the real threat to Porter is the forbidding terrain he has to cross and the deadly weather he braves.  This is one that you'll want to read with a blanket over you and a warm mug of something or other nearby.


Grade: (A)



See also:

Lionel Davidson (2 books reviewed)
Book-related and General Links:
    -Lionel Davidson (Stop You're Killing Me)
    -REVIEW : of KOLYMSKY HEIGHTS By Lionel Davidson (James Carroll, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Kolymsky Heights (Mystery Guide)
    -Real Audio REVIEW: Rose of Tibet (NPR, Alan Cheuse)
    -AWARDS : Dagger Awards (