The Polish Week is a political thriller set in the Poland of 1981- remember that? Solidarity, Russian tanks on the border, Thatcher's Britain with cutbacks. This story centres around the neutral ground of a classical concert at The Royal Albert Hall in London and the discovery of a plot for an assassination of one of the visiting foreign ministers.
A quote from Edmund Burke at the opening of the book, as true today as it was when written in 1770, sets us thinking of the path this book is going to go down, 'When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.' (Thoughts on the Cause of Present Discontentment). It opens in Warsaw in February as a colonel in full uniform gets out of a black limousine. The country is in political turmoil with ineffective leadership and 'the arch traitor Lech Walesa'. The preparation is being made fro the new culture minister to travel to London to attend a concert of Polish music.
Skipping forward one month to the end of March, the majority of the novel is set in London over the tight detailed period of one week (hence the title). The chapters are titled with the date, place and time with some being just one or two hours apart. We move from north London to MI5 Head Office to RAF Biggin Hill and on to the climax in the Albert Hall.
David Brenton, forty, divorced and an undercover MI5 agent lives in north London. A war baby, now after his divorce living in 'self-imposed isolation' he is a skilled sound recordist and organ player. this is where the author, a retired music producer with RTE, draws on his own extensive knowledge of the subject. Using a sound recording scenario as a backdrop for the building of the main character it is through this set-up that he gains information about an assassination attempt.
This is one of those books that is on a slow boil. It simmers around the gradual build-up, developing the story of Brenton and his relationship with his fellow sound recordists, and you can feel that something is there, about to boil over. This is a 'gentlemanly' thriller and Mac Donald has captured well the atmosphere of London and the characters involved in the various aspects of the business.
The Polish Week is published by Portia Publishing.