Now, or in the near future, the Czech and Slovak Republics seem on the verge of reuniting. That’s the setting for Escape to Perdition, a recently published thriller by James Silvester. A party committed to reunification has come to power in Slovakia and its sister party in the Czech Republic seems about to do the same. But the European Union, in the form of its sinister Institute for European Harmony, has other ideas and is mounting a programme of assassination to prevent reunion. It prefers Central and Eastern Europe to be a collection of smaller, weaker states that it can control; it does not want a stronger, more assertive Czechoslovakia to set a trend that challenges that.
One of its assassins is the main character Peter Lowe, a hard-drinking, self-despising and blues-loving Englishman. In his career he has already accounted for one of the most famous names in Czechoslovak history, and now he has to take out the leaders of the pro-reunion parties. He kills the Czech leader – a man he admires, and a hero of the Prague Spring – in Týn church, the famous church with its twin towers that looms over the capital’s Old Town Square. But then he falls in love with his next victim, the beautiful Miroslava Svobodova, since her election victory Prime Minister of Slovakia.
Election day in the Czech Republic approaches and events move quickly and violently. Among the characters we meet are Rasti, an ex-priest who runs the Smokin’ Hot, Peter’s favourite blues and drinking haunt; The Child, the Institute’s mysterious and deadly boss; Sir Roger McShade, the arrogant and suspect British Ambassador to Prague; Karol Černý, Ms Svobodova’s rival for the leadership of the new Czechoslovakia; and a range of murderers on the Institute’s payroll. Dramatic events unfold on (among other places) the Charles Bridge, in Old Town Square, in the Smetana Hall in Prague; at Lidice (the scene of a Nazi atrocity in WW2); and in the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia.
In the words of the trailer on Amazon, ‘Peter is not all he seems. Can he confront his past to save the future?’
For me it was a page-turner. It also contains occasional reflections on what has happened economically and politically in the Republics since 1989 and on the circumstances of their split in 1993. It’s the author’s debut novel.
The book is available through Urbane Publications, and costs £8-99 RRP in print and £1-99 as an e-book. ISBN 978-1-909273-79-5 See http://urbanepublications.com/books/escape-to-perdition/.