'The Stoner of Thrillers'

Posted on 20th March 2015 by Joseph Knobbs
Bookseller Joseph Knobbs on why you simply must read Kolymsky Heights by Lionel Davidson.

Let's shout it from the rooftops: Kolymsky Heights is something really special. Originally published in 1994, it took 15 years to write and was a sensation upon release but has somehow fallen out of print. Perhaps this is because Lionel Davidson, the author, was in his 70s when it was completed. Perhaps it’s because he never published a book again, and died in 2009. Whatever the reason, when I read the book I couldn’t believe it had been forgotten about for so long.

Opening in Oxford, we get our first glimpse at the scope and scale of the novel. It will take us from a desperate, coded message, discarded in a waste bin, across the Arctic sea in a death trap, to the ‘permafrost hell’ of Siberia. The desperate message, and the story of its journey, is ingenious; the man it finally reaches is the most unconventional, fascinating hero I’ve come across; and his near-suicidal attempt to accomplish his mission is believable and sensational in equal measure.

This is a book that stands easy comparison with the best work of John le Carre and Robert Harris, whilst not alienating a thriller reader who demands action. It will appeal to readers of Charles Cumming, Lee Child, Donna Tartt, I Am Pilgrim and beyond. 

Everyone loves the idea of a lost classic. Recently we've seen Stoner by John Williams make a dramatic comeback after decades of obscurity and we're certain that Lionel Davidson can do the same.

Kolymsky Heights is truly unique and now even more so with our exclusive Waterstones edition.


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