Fred Findhorn has just landed on an unstable Arctic iceberg to dig through the wreckage of a 1944 Russian military aircraft. His mission: to recover the frozen body of brilliant atomic scientist Lev Petrosian and a briefcase, containing top-secret documents about the clandestine meeting to which he was headed before the crash …

But, as Findhorn is about to discover, there are other scientists, government officials, and rogue operatives who will...

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Fred Findhorn has just landed on an unstable Arctic iceberg to dig through the wreckage of a 1944 Russian military aircraft. His mission: to recover the frozen body of brilliant atomic scientist Lev Petrosian and a briefcase, containing top-secret documents about the clandestine meeting to which he was headed before the crash …

But, as Findhorn is about to discover, there are other scientists, government officials, and rogue operatives who will do anything to learn Petrosian’s secretsand are willing to kill to keep them buried.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Fans of Dan Brown take note.”—Jack DuBrul on Splintered Icon

“Deftly mixing history, science, and fiction, Napier keeps the action escalating.”—Publishers Weekly

“The most exciting book I have ever read.” —Arthur C. Clarke on Nemesis

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429944229
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 8/26/2008
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 622,401
  • File size: 402 KB

Meet the Author

Bill Napier was born in Scotland in 1940. He studied astronomy at Glasgow University, and has spent most of his career as an astronomer at observatories in Scotland, Italy, and Northern Ireland. He is an honorary professor in the Centre for Astrobiology at Cardiff University. In his research he has discovered a process which allows life to spread around the Galaxy, taking hold wherever it finds suitable environments—such as the Earth. He now lives in Ireland with his wife Nancy and divides his time between writing novels and carrying out research with colleagues in Wales and California. He likes to cook but faces stiff competition from wife and children.

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Read an Excerpt

1The Shadow on the LakeThursday, 29 July 1942 
Out-of-towners. Men with an intense, almost unnatural aura about them. Come from God knows where to the back of beyond. In his imagination, the station master sees gangsters, Mafia bosses come for a secret confab.It is, after all, a quiet branch line, and he has to occupy his mind with something.He has no way of knowing that the three men alighting from the Pullman are infinitely more dangerous than anything his imagination can devise.First out is John Baudino, the Pope's bodyguard. His gorilla frame almost fills the carriage door. He is carrying a dark green shopping bag. Baudino surveys the platform suspiciously before stepping down. Two others follow, one a tall, thin man with intense blue eyes. He is wearing a broad-brimmed pork-pie hat, and is smoking a cigarette. The third man is thin and studious, with a pale, serious face and round spectacles.The man waiting impatiently on the empty railwayplatform expected only Oppenheimer; the other two are a surprise.'Hello, Arthur,' says the man with the blue eyes, shaking hands. He looks bleary, as if he hasn't slept.'You could have flown, Oppie. A thousand miles is one helluva train ride.'Oppenheimer drops his cigarette on the platform and exhales the last of the smoke. 'You know how it is with the General. He thinks we're too valuable to risk in the air.'Arthur Compton leads the way to the exit gate.The station master gives them a suspicious nod. 'Y'all here for the fishing?' he asks, attempting a friendly tone. It is out of season for the angling. His eyes stray to their unfishing-like clothes and luggage.'No. We're German spies,' growls Baudino, thrusting the train tickets at him. The station master snaps their tickets and cackles nervously.In Compton's estate wagon, Baudino pulls a notebook and a Colt 38 out of the shopping bag at his feet. He rests the weapon on his knees. He says, 'Do your talking somewhere quiet, Mister Compton. And not in the cottage.''Come on, John, it's a hideaway. Nobody even knows I'm here.''We found you,' Baudino says over his shoulder. He is already checking car registration numbers against a list.Compton thinks about that. 'Yeah.' He takes the car along a narrow, quiet suburban road. After about three miles the houses peter out and the road is lined with coniferforest. Now and then a lake can be glimpsed to the right, through the trees. After ten minutes Compton goes down through the gears and then turns off along a rough track. About a mile on he arrives at a clearing, and pulls up at a log cabin. A line of washing is strung out on the verandah. They step out and stretch their limbs. The air is cool and clear. Baudino slips the gun into his trouser belt.Compton says, 'You know what I'm enjoying about this place? The water. It's everywhere. It even descends from the sky. After the mesa, it's glorious. You guys want coffee?'Oppenheimer shakes his head. 'Later. First, let's talk.' He leans into the wagon and pulls out a briefcase.Compton points and they set off through a track in the woods. After half a mile they come to a lake whose far edge is somewhere over the horizon. They set off along the pebbled beach. Baudino takes up the rear, about thirty yards behind the other three, to be out of hearing: what the eggheads get up to is none of his business. His assignment is protection and to that end he keeps glancing around, peering into the forest. Now and then he touches the gun, as if for reassurance.Compton says, 'Oppie, whatever made you come a thousand miles to the Canadian border, it must be deadly serious.'Oppenheimer's face is grim. 'Teller thinks the bomb will set light to the atmosphere, maybe even the oceans.'Compton stops. 'What?'Oppenheimer pats the briefcase. 'I've brought his calculations.'The studious one, Lev Petrosian, speaks for the first time since they arrived. His English is good and clear with just a hint of a German accent. 'He thinks atmospheric nitrogen and carbon will catalyse fusion of the hydrogen. Here's the basic formula.' He hands over a sheet of paper.Compton studies it for some minutes, while walking. Finally he looks up at his colleagues, consternation in his eyes. 'Jesus.'Oppenheimer nods. 'A smart guy, our Hungarian. At the fireball temperatures we're talking about you start with carbon, combine with hydrogen all the way up to nitrogen-15, then you get your carbon back. Meantime you've transmuted four hydrogen atoms into helium-4 and fired out gamma rays all the way up the ladder.''Hell, Oppie, we don't even need to create the nitrogen. It's eighty per cent of the atmosphere. And we've already got the carbon in the CO2, not to mention plenty of hydrogen in the water. If this is right it makes the atmosphere a devil's brew.' Compton shakes his head. 'But it can't be right. It takes millions of years to turn hydrogen into deuterium.'Petrosian says, 'About one hydrogen atom in ten thousand is deuterium. It's already there in the atmosphere.''You mean ...''God has fixed our atmosphere beautifully. He's made it so it by-passes the slow reactions in the ladder. The rates are speeded up from millions of years to a few seconds.''When does the process trigger?''It kicks in at a hundred million degrees. The bomb could reach that.'Oppenheimer coughs slightly and stops to light up a cigarette. 'We could turn the planet into one huge fireball.''What does the Pope think? And Uncle Nick?' Compton is referring to Enrico Fermi and Neils Bohr, atomic physicists whose names are so sensitive that they are referred to by nickname even within the barbed wire enclave of Los Alamos.Oppenheimer takes a nervous puff. 'They don't know yet. I want us to check it out first. We'll work on it overnight.'Compton picks up a stone and throws it into the water. They watch the ripples before they carry on walking.'Out with it,' Oppenheimer says.Compton's tone is worried. 'Oppie, look at the big picture. The U-boats have just about strangled the British. Hitler's troops are occupying Europe from the North Cape to Egypt. Russia's just about finished and I'll bet a dime to a dollar Hitler will soon push through Iran and link up with the Japs in the Indian Ocean. The Germans and the Japs will soon have the whole of Asia, Russia and Europe between them.''So?''So then Hitler will be over the Bering Straits and through Canada like a knife through butter. By the time he gets there he'll be stronger than us. We have a two-thousand-mile border with the Canadians, Oppie, it's indefensible, and I don't want my hideaway to be five minutes' flying time from Goering's Stukas.'Oppenheimer's intense blue eyes are fixed on the lake, as if he is looking over the horizon to Canada. 'That's a grand strategic vision, Arthur. But what's your point?''Ten minutes ago that grand strategic vision didn't bother me. So long as we won the race to build the gadget, we'd be okay. But how can we take even the slightest chance of setting the atmosphere alight? I'm sorry, Oppie, but given a straight choice we'd be better to accept Nazi slavery.'Oppenheimer nods reluctantly. 'I've lost a lot of sleep over this one, Arthur, but I have to agree. Unless we can be a hundred per cent sure that Teller is wrong, the Bomb must never be made.'There is just a trace of sadness in Petrosian's voice. 'I understand your reasoning, gentlemen. I'd probably think the same if I hadn't lived under the Nazis.'Copyright © 2000 by Bill Napier.
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