When Max and Alexei witness a skiing death in the French Alps, their suspicions are stirred. But when Gudrun, the victim’s partner, shares the finer details of this horrible accident their worries are quashed.
Some weeks later, however, when Gudrun unexpectedly contacts the pair, she explains that The Stockmann Institute, a mysterious, Oslo-based organisation, is interested in their services.
Their brief? Simply to befriend young Freddie Ricketts, a promising cyber genius who spends his life in front of a computer screen. At this point, they are able to continue with their jobs and lives, as long as they become Freddie’s cyber pals.
All is well until Freddie accepts a sudden invitation to visit China.
Alarm bells ring when Max and Alexei are asked by Gudrun to nursemaid Freddie during the trip to the East, but they agree, keen to ensure Freddie’s safety. They are whisked off to the Academy in Yunnan province, supposedly for a couple of weeks.
Su, a young girl who becomes Freddie’s mentor at the Academy, has a swift and profound influence on the youngster, and very quickly he declares his intention to remain in China. Max and Alexei won’t allow this to happen. They can’t.
They have to think and act fast if they are to prevent one of Britain’s best computer brains from being poached by a powerful rival.
Will they survive their escape across the border to Burma’s Shan state, the rough and perilous road to Mandalay? Or will the powers-that-be use whatever desperate and devious means possible to get their hands on young Freddie and his cyber genius expertise?
Find out all this and much more in this tantalising cybercrime, murder mystery thriller that will keep you guessing right up to the very last page.
With the whole of Val Fornet ‘skied out’, I was trying to sniff out somewhere that might still have some untouched snow. The standard run back to the resort was classified as red, second in difficulty after black, and not much fun at the best of times. The bottom half would now be horrible, a mix of ice and bare rock before lunch, turning to rock and slush as the sun got to work. Many of the ESF classes would be ending their lesson with a ‘run’ back to the valley in the cable car.
There was also a black run, the most difficult grade, but I’d skied that one yesterday and the moguls were mini mountains. This early in the day they would also be like concrete. Surely I could find something better?
I glanced across at my companion, togged out in a silver one-piece ski suit and bobble-hat pulled down over her ears. Snub nose and red lips made up about half of what was visible. The other half told its own story: skin that was nearly office-white. Alexei had not managed much alpine relaxation so far this season.
My job was running a string of chalets for ‘Snow Supreme’, which had started life some twenty years earlier in Val Fornet, before expanding to Les Arcs, La Plagne and The Three Valleys in France. Next had come Verbier in Switzerland. And more recently Zermatt and The Arlberg, although there it was space in hotels.
Because Val Fornet was where Snow Supreme had been born, that was my base. A crisis might see me whizzing across ice-bound Europe to sort things out, but most days I could manage a couple of hours skiing. The previous evening I’d been checking out a minor problem at our Chalet Escale and got talking to Alexei, who was keen to make the most of her short time here. I’d skied with her occasionally in previous years, when she’d been with a boyfriend, and knew she could cope with just about anything. So here we were.
“Let’s head away from all this,” I said. La Bisque’s amphitheatre was already starting to get busy. “See what we can find.”
Did I say that I knew ‘every dip and mogul’ in Val Fornet? I was telling a fib. ‘Espace Savoie’, which linked Val Fornet with a couple of neighbouring resorts, claimed to be the world’s largest ski area. If Three Valleys and others disputed this, it was academic. The amount of snow available without taking off one’s skis was mind-boggling. We were about to explore a part which had so far escaped me.
“Thinking of the black run?” asked Alexei. She clearly knew the area well.
“We may end up there,” I replied. “But first let’s cast our net a little wider.”
I led the way, heading south, almost across the mountain face, but with enough down gradient to coast without using sticks. It was the sort of morning you dream of, at this altitude the snow still in good shape; not powder of course, the sun had seen to that, but not crust either. I hated crust. Here even ESF beginners could have enjoyed themselves.
When I judged we had gone far enough, I stopped. Alexei joined me with a dainty show-off twirl.
“Doesn’t get much better than this,” she said, her face now glowing, her eyes alive.
I nodded. The resort lay over to our right, with an offshoot valley below. The massif facing us lay roasting in the morning sun, little ant-humans already busy, twisting and turning down their runs. Seen from afar, I was always amazed that mankind had found ways to ski such steep slopes with comparative ease.
“We’re off-piste, so stay behind me,” I said. “Ready to roll?”
She nodded, excitedly.
We skied down in big lazy swoops, often stopping to admire the view. We were not in a race. Alexei was right. It didn’t get much better than this.
We were probably two thirds of the way down when I came to an abrupt halt. Put up a warning hand. Alexei stopped beside me. Followed my gaze down.
“What to do now?” she asked.
What indeed! Below us was not quite a precipice, but it was very steep. Much steeper than the slope we were on. Worse still, we were now so low down that the sun had burned the snow off the lip of the escarpment, reducing it to bare rock. Although this strip was quite narrow, I didn’t fancy trying to step over it to reach the almost vertical snow below: one stumble and we would inevitably plunge hundreds of feet down to the valley floor.
“Val Fornet is over there,” I said, pointing to the right. “So somewhere in that direction must be the black run. Let’s find it.”
The bare strip ran due north and more or less level, so we were faced with a tedious traverse on the remnants of snow above. I hoped Alexei was not prone to vertigo, because a couple of feet to our left the ground dropped away dramatically. She made no comment, just slotted in behind me.
Ski-walking on the level is not much fun and we were soon pretty hot. Headgear went into bumbags, skisuits opened up for airconditioning. In the event it only took about fifteen minutes before the escarpment suddenly vanished and ahead of us lay the promised land: the black run back to Val Fornet.
“Isn’t that a lovely sight.” Alexei stopped beside me, grinning.
The piste was steep and occupied a wide gulley. Previous traffic had sculptured a series of huge moguls, but we didn’t care. This was ski-able territory.
We stood there for some moments, enjoying the view. The place to ourselves. Still too early for any competition. Which was strange, because by now it wasn’t that early.
Our heads must have turned in the same instant. Realised we were not alone. Because way up to our right, on the skyline, there was movement. It took a microsecond to grasp what it was. Then we watched mesmerised, as a figure in blue tumbled down the slope in front of us. A rag doll. With no skis, just arms and legs frantically trying to regain control of a situation long since lost.
I was reminded of the man who jumped from the top of a skyscraper: didn’t hurt at all until he hit the sidewalk. It was the same here. Had the black run been nice and smooth, with a flattening slope at the bottom, the rag doll might have escaped with little more than a fright. But it wasn’t like that at all. This piste was a series of massive humps that threw the rag doll several feet into the air whenever it hit one. Its trajectory became an aerial journey from one mogul to the next, every landing like hitting the sidewalk. Hard.
We watched appalled as the rag doll continued its deadly descent, eventually coming to rest near the bottom of the valley.
About the Author
Rolf Richardson is of English/Norwegian descent, and loves to travel.
After spending his life in the travel business, first for 25 years as an airline pilot before becoming a travel photographer and a cruise lecturer, Rolf decided that the time had come to write about some of the hundred plus countries he has visited by using them as real settings for his fictional novels.
Road to Mandalay is Rolf’s fifth novel. His previous stories are;
The weather at Heathrow is foul, something that should only concern the queue of metal birds waiting their turn to land. But a series of unrelated events are combining to make the day more interesting than usual.
In common with the rest of Westminster, Damian White is oblivious to the problems in the sky above. Damian’s ancestors came from the old empire, the Caribbean and India, which makes him an unusual Tory Member of Parliament for an English shire. However, his biggest handicap is not the colour of his skin, but the fact that he thinks for himself. And votes accordingly. Not ministerial material. Just a career on the back benches.
Until fate launches him upwards into a cauldron of catastrophes that no one else is prepared to handle. Fortuitously linked with Chloe, a reporter from his local rag, he becomes the Night Watchman, his job to steady the ship of state until normal service can be resumed.
“An intriguing and thought provoking read about a political utopia!! Rolf Richardson will educate and entertain!” – Amazon Customer
Bear Bugger Cruise
Two days into a world cruise a man is reported overboard, but no one appears to be missing. As she heads for the Caribbean, the good ship Gioconda faces further problems. What about that unsavoury passenger in the owner’s suite? And can the Bear Bugger keep the old ship going?
“A unique story based on life on a cruise ship. Rolf Richardson manages to guide the reader through little known Caribbean islands, personal relationships and intriguing storylines. An excellent read.” – Amazon Customer
It’s the dawn of a new decade: 1960. Archie, a young RAF pilot looking for pastures new, gets a job with an airline based in Singapore. His older colleagues are of the war-time generation, trained to complete the mission, almost regardless of cost. But it’s now peacetime and the new mantra is maximum safety.
Unfortunately, the tools of the aviation trade in the early 1960s were primitive by today’s standards. Scarcely a week went by without the wreckage of an airliner appearing on the front pages. Archie’s initial workplace was the Bristol Britannia, a sedate looking aircraft that hid some of the strangest designs ever to grace the skies. Add the constant threat of the tropical rainbelt and you have an environment that can hardly be described as friendly.
This is a story of people who worked in the ‘teenage years’ of the airline industry: the pilots, engineers and cabin crew; the entrepreneur who got the airline off the ground; the ageing aviatrix, with progressive ideas, in charge of personnel. It’s also a story of the struggle to rebuild Singapore after the ravages of war; and to navigate the thorny path from being a colony to independence.
The action radiates from the airline’s base at Singapore: to Calcutta, Karachi, Phuket, Darwin and Australian outback. Finally, Archie has to face a problem that still tests pilots 50 years on: Coffin Corner.
“Rolf Richardson has written a high octane tale of adventure, love, excitement, exploration and danger which charges along at a rollicking pace! …. Richardson’s characters are beautifully painted with a vocabulary of limitless depth. Surprises and amusement lie at the turn of every page. Coffin Corner provides breathless, brilliant entertainment. Superb.” – Matt
The Last Weiss
In the final year of the Second World War, a Lancaster bomber is shot down over Nazi Germany. The tail gunner, a Norwegian named Per, is the only survivor. Tramping through Germany in a seemingly hopeless quest to avoid being sent to a POW camp, he happens to save the life of young Benni, the last son of a prominent family.
Hailed as a hero, with Germany now desperate for labour, and his status uncertain, Per is put to work in the town’s gasthof, where he quickly makes friends with the local people. Especially Siggy, Benni’s mother.
But in Nazi Germany death is never far away and soon Per’s situation becomes precarious. When a top Nazi, Gauleiter Frunze, with his own mysterious agenda, offers Per a chance to return to Norway, he accepts. In spite of the extraordinary condition attached to this offer.
Per’s action thriller life resumes in Norway, amongst the top echelon of the occupying Nazis, who are desperately trying to salvage whatever they can in the last, losing days of the Second World War.
As the Third Reich collapses in a welter of chaos and blood, Per finds both his personal life and that of his country heading towards a climax. An action thriller and historical romance with twists and turns that will keep you reading until the very last page, ‘The Last Weiss’ is a Second World War novel you will not want to miss.
“Intriguing historical jaunt from Germany to Norway and back” – Musto