3 out of 4 stars
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The Russians have a plot to convert England into a communist state. This is the premise of a book called The Coal’d War: Fear, Desperation, Treachery and Salvation by James Alan Thompson. This is a spy novel, based in Russia, Poland and England, set in the 1980’s. The Story is slow moving at first, but it ends with a high-octane finale.
The mining industries arrange a foreign exchange program. This sends some British miners to Poland and some Polish miners came to England to learn about each others methods. Gennardy is the name of the interpreter that traveled with the miners from Poland. During their time in the UK, the Polish miners stayed in the homes of some of the English miners. Gennardy stayed with Tony Harthill, a union representative of the CMU (Coal Miners Union).
After returning to Poland, Gennardy is asked to be the standby interpreter at a meeting, where they are discussing turning the UK into a communist state. The opening move is a strike of the CMU. He immediately recognizes the men in the meeting, but as he is the standby, they ignore him.
Worried for his life, Gennardy seeks out some British intelligence operatives and tells them what he overheard. They tell him they will provide asylum and a life in England, if he can provide proof. The British operatives tell their boss, Goodchild, about what they had heard, not realizing that he was a double agent. Upon being informed of this meeting, Goodchild tells the head of the KGB, Plakinov, who immediately tries to capture and interrogate Gennardy.
As Gennardy had approached Li, Plakinov’s assistant, in trying to get the proof he needs. This incriminates, and so they have to go on the run together. Grabbing what information they can, they try to escape to the UK and the one man that Gennardy trusts, Tony Harthill. The Russians, worried about what information they have stolen getting out, launch a full-scale search for them. Will they make it there? Will the information they have be enough to save them? You’ll only find out by reading it.
In the beginning of the story, Thompson goes into a lot of detail about the strike. This makes the first part of the story quite stodgy to read. When he starts alternating between the CMU strike action with the actions of the Russians and their quarry, the pace of the story picks up and it flows more freely.
The part I loved most about the story was where Gennardy and Li talked about his experiences while he was in the UK. Using this to keep themselves motivated. As my boyfriend is from the UK, I found this especially poignant, as I’d like to go there and experience these things for myself.
The book contains many characters of many nationalities. I found that they all had very distinctive personalities. They all acted in a way that was true to themselves, with the exception of one scene. During this scene one young lady did the complete opposite of what I expected her to do. I found this a bit of a stretch just to throw in a plot twist. I found the plot very straightforward, though I do have to say the ending took me by surprise, as I wasn’t sure who would win out in the end. The end though is definitely an end, so this can be read as a standalone book. There is plenty of option available though if the author decides he wants to write a sequel.
I read the book on my kindle. The formatting in this version leaves a lot to be desired. There are half blank pages, paragraph indents in the middle of sentences, some parts were right justified, etc. All this made it challenge to read. Add to that some punctuation mistakes and extra words here and there, and I can only give this a rating of 3 out of 4 stars, though the story itself merited Four. The story contains some violence and sexual references, though nothing overly graphic, so I don’t think anyone should be able to take offence. The book itself would probably be well acceptable to anyone interested in either the cold war or spy novels.
The Coal'd War
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