The Dead Man Strikes Back
This contemporary fiction is full of danger and suspense, blending recent history with the adventures of a British spy sent to rescue a missing colleague. The result is a fast moving action packed thriller, set against the background of Russia’s problems with Chechnya and Georgia. Much of the drama takes place against a background of the magnificent Caucasus Mountains. But can our hero trust the Russian FSB (formerly KGB) officer who befriends him and how will she react to Anna, a Separatist?
Extract: “A pistol shot echoed around the snow-capped peaks. Startled jackdaws rose from their nests. Night had begun to fall, and with it came the all-pervading cold made all the more merciless by a gusting north wind.
Down amongst the twenty or so dwellings huddled together on a narrow ledge high in the Caucasus Mountains, a group of women redoubled their ululating as they prepared a funereal supper. The men began to chant salaams, which carried to the tiny group of mourners clustered around the freshly dug graves.
Sergei, in his long grey overcoat and wide-topped sheepskin hat, gazed down at the two bodies lying at his feet in open rough pine coffins. Each had a bullet hole in the centre of its forehead, and another through the heart; both men would have been dead before they hit the ground.
He bowed his head in respectful silence. ‘So young, so very young,’ he sighed, staring thoughtfully at the lights of two distant villages, the one where he was born perched high above the other, under a massive rock peak which protected it from the worst rigors of the winter blizzards. These were his people, his mountains – range after range stretching into the mists.
Somehow, they seemed to give him the courage to glance across at Alexei, the local partisan leader, a giant of a man with an ugly scar on his right cheek which his black beard could not conceal. Their eyes did not meet and neither spoke.
‘They died for the cause. They are heroes of the Confederation of Mountain Peoples and must be honoured as such,’ a voice growled. ‘Good men, comrades. This is Captain Yusuf’s work – not many can shoot like that.’
Sergei nodded. One of the bodies could so easily have been his own. Rumour had it that both he and Alexei were on the Captain’s death list.
The partisan’s grip tightened on the strap of the Kalashnikov slung across his back, his face ravaged by exhaustion and sorrow; but he looked away, as if seeking comfort from the old sepulchres in the small cemetery and from the square stone towers of the mountain village – a relic of the past.
Crack. Two bodies; two shots – the proprieties had been observed. Sergei mouthed a silent prayer
Then the fire seemed to come into Alexei’s eyes as he pledged a blood feud with the Georgians – a feud to end all feuds. Sergei walked over and stood beside him – a gesture of solidarity.
The partisan responded with a hug and a kiss on both cheeks and turned to the villagers: ‘Now is the time for leadership; the time for vengeance. Follow me. These grenades clipped to the metal loops in my ammunition belt, this Kalashnikov, and the armed men around me, all have urgent work to do.’
He took a pace backwards, stood smartly to attention, then slowly raised his right arm above his head and clenched his fist. The whole village fell silent. With quiet dignity, he ordered: ‘Bury them. They will be avenged.’
Sergei bared his head and watched as the coffins were solemnly nailed down and lowered into the ground. Tears welled up in his eyes as they were covered with earth – out of sight for ever. As if to enhance the melancholy, a younger element began to dance to the haunting accompaniment of a balalaika – a dance which grew faster and wilder as it progressed.”