Thriller & Suspense

Tea with Rasputin

By

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Well-paced story with many well-drawn characters. A strong sense of suspense covering several continents.

Synopsis

Greg Wilton, a pilot with British World Airways, arrives in Anchorage Alaska on a 48 hour layover. When his crew pitch up in the hotel lobby to resume their schedule to Tokyo, Wilton is missing.
Back at BWA headquarters, things are busy, so a young trainee, Terry Jackson, is the only one who can be spared to try and find the missing airman. Arriving in Anchorage, he discovers that Coral, a waitress at the crew watering hole the Golden Nugget, seems to be the last person to have seen Wilton. so Terry enlists her help.
The action moves on to Hong Kong, Miami, Las Vegas, back to England and finally St.Petersburg, for 'Tea with Rasputin'.
With a mix of skullduggery, politics, romance and humour, come and join the party.

Reentering civilian life is difficult for soldiers, even if they have not experienced combat. Terry Jackson is an amiable Sandhurst graduate searching for a career after leaving the British Army. While he has nothing against his family or his native York, he does not long to return there.

   He receives training with British World Airways and while awaiting his first posting, is tasked with what appears to be a routine assignment. A pilot has gone missing in Alaska. Everything should be resolved quickly and without much to do. Instead, Jackson finds himself enmeshed in something that will impact not only his future career, but also his personal life.

   Indications are that Greg Wilton, the missing pilot, has gone into Russia. Even though the Soviet Union has recently collapsed, the innate Russian passion for slow-moving bureaucracy and secrecy are still very much alive. What appears to be the case, Jackson learns, is not necessarily the truth. Russia still is, as Churchill said,   “A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

    Gradually, enough is revealed to Jackson about what really became of Greg Wilton. The mystery involves Jackson’s wife and children, as well as other people from that investigation early in his career, and literally follows him around the globe.

    In the hands of a less-talented author, this story would seem, forced, hurried, and confusing. Thankfully, none of that happens here. Every so often there is a gap of a few years, as Jackson assumes new positions with British World Airways. Enough detail is given about these new postings to give sufficient background, but not too much for readers to absorb or to slow down the main action of the plot. Nothing essential is either omitted or thrown in via some Deus ex machine twist.

   As with any good story, the action quickens towards the end, and readers are kept in suspense. Readers also get a good feel for the complex characters; no one is totally bad, no one is too good-to-be-true. I heartily recommend this book.  

Reviewed by

I am a published poet with four books out there of my own, and two in collaboration with artist Carol Worthington-Levy. Additionally I have drafts of a novel and one short story in the process of being sent out.

Synopsis

Greg Wilton, a pilot with British World Airways, arrives in Anchorage Alaska on a 48 hour layover. When his crew pitch up in the hotel lobby to resume their schedule to Tokyo, Wilton is missing.
Back at BWA headquarters, things are busy, so a young trainee, Terry Jackson, is the only one who can be spared to try and find the missing airman. Arriving in Anchorage, he discovers that Coral, a waitress at the crew watering hole the Golden Nugget, seems to be the last person to have seen Wilton. so Terry enlists her help.
The action moves on to Hong Kong, Miami, Las Vegas, back to England and finally St.Petersburg, for 'Tea with Rasputin'.
With a mix of skullduggery, politics, romance and humour, come and join the party.

PROLOGUE

THE COLD WAR

The Cold War lasted from the end of the hot war in 1945 until the death of the Soviet Union on Christmas Day 1991. Its tentacles spread to parts of the globe previously considered too remote for conflict, such as the USA’s largest and most thinly populated state, Alaska. If a nuclear missile had left its launch pad in the evil empire, the first indication of the free world’s impending doom would have been its Distant Early Warning, DEW Line, constructed at vast expense across the arctic regions. This would have given Uncle Sam enough time to retaliate, either with Strategic Air Command bombers, continuously airborne on retribution patrol, or its own armoury of missiles. MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction achieved.

In spite of some close shaves, miraculously this suicide scenario never came to pass and by the 1980s the paranoia was abating. Or so it was hoped.

Until September 1983, when Korean Air 007 left Anchorage in Alaska for Seoul and immediately started drifting north of track. No one noticed this error, which became progressively greater, until they were hundreds of miles adrift over the Kamchatka Peninsula, a highly sensitive military area of the Soviet Union. The Boeing 747 pressed on, ever further into Russian airspace, until it was 390 nautical miles off course over Sakhalin Island, where it was shot down by a Soviet SU15 fighter. All 269 souls on board perished.

Fortunately for mankind, paranoia had simmered down sufficiently for the fallout to be warfare by words rather than missiles. But tensions remained.

The end came with unexpected suddenness, first with the breach of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, then the collapse of the Soviet Empire two years later. The fifteen republics of this unlikely enterprise went their own way, leaving everyone wondering what would happen to Mother Russia herself, now presided over by a vodka-loving bear of a man called Boris Yeltsin.

The Yeltsin era rapidly turned to chaos, as inflation wrecked savings and production plummeted. Although the green shoots of a market economy were soon sprouting, this was gangster capitalism, where the unscrupulous practised interesting new ways of creating wealth. Our story starts at this time, at the front line of the old cold war: Alaska.


PART ONE

SUMMER 1992, ALASKA

1

On most trips the captain kicked off by flying the first sector, no rhyme or reason for this beyond habit, but on this occasion Captain Abbott said, “You do this one,” muttering an aside about a party last night, which had left him less than razor-sharp. So First Officer Greg Wilton was ‘in command under supervision’, a situation that occurs a million times a year in the world of commercial aviation.

Weather over the arctic regions had been spectacular, the oil-rich North Slope beginning to cast off its winter white, after that the peaks of the Brooks Range, still topped with snow.

“Looks like McKinley’s about to get socked in,” said Greg, pointing ahead at North America’s highest mountain, disappearing before their eyes under some evil-looking clouds.

“Nowadays they call it Denali, not to upset the natives,” said the captain, adding: “A taste of what’s to come, because here’s the latest Anchorage actual: best get your wellies out.”

Greg glanced at the slip of paper, which told him that their destination was blowing a gale and bucketing with rain. The North Pacific coast is notoriously wet. They registered the fact that their official funk-hole of Fairbanks was in fine fettle just behind them. Not that they expected any problems at Anchorage, but the flying game is all about looking ahead; anticipation. You never knew.

There were no problems at Anchorage. It was June, so the low pressure brought blustery rain rather than the driving snow of January; that would have been a challenge. Greg Wilton guided the 747 down, an increasingly bumpy ride as they descended into the murk, while the skipper did the co-piloting from the left-hand seat. They had done this sort of thing umpteen times before.

After a very acceptable landing, Greg handed control back to the captain as they approached their stand, because pier guidance lights are calibrated for the left-hand seat. They agreed an engine shut down time of 2126 and wrote this in their log books, together with the trip time of eight hours, thirty-five minutes. Alaska is nine hours behind British time, so they had arrived before leaving London, the polar route being the only one where subsonic aircraft can manage this feat. Bedtime in Britain was lunchtime in Alaska.

They had a quick discussion with the crew who were taking the flight on to Tokyo, then enjoyed a mercifully efficient transit through the airport to their hotel in downtown Anchorage.

“See you in the bar around six?” suggested the captain.

Greg nodded; the boss down the back gave a thumbs up; and a blonde stewardess returned a hopeful smile. No one took any of this as a promise, because evening in Anchorage was well into tomorrow for their bodies. Everyone had their own way of trying to cope with jetlag and most tended to sleep when they could. The trick was to be as fit as possible when duty next called, which in this instance was two days hence.

Forty-eight hours was a better than average recovery time. BWA would have loved to cut it to the legal minimum, but their daily Tokyo service was split three a week through Moscow/Siberia and four a week via Anchorage’s polar route, so longer layovers were unavoidable. The crew’s tryst in the bar that first evening may have been optional, but everyone would be on parade, bright eyed and bushy tailed, when BWA’s next flight arrived from London. That was for sure.

Sometimes ‘for sure’ isn’t. They tried his room. Hunted high and low throughout the hotel. Even phoned the local knocking shop. No luck. In the end Captain Abbott had to admit defeat. Greg Wilton, his first officer, had vanished.

About the author

Rolf Richardson spent 25 years as an airline pilot before turning to photography and cruise lecturing, a lifetime of travel covering some 110 countries. He is now writing 'Easy Read' fiction, set in some of the places he has visited. Seven of his ebooks are available on Amazon view profile

Published on July 24, 2020

Published by Gold Wind

60000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Thriller & Suspense

Reviewed by

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