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by Richard Doyle
Arrow, January 2003
624 pages
6.99 GBP
ISBN: 0099429691

In 1976, Richard Doyle wrote a book called DELUGE in which London is submerged by a 1000 year flood. I guess he thought the 1000 years were done, so he has written a book called FLOOD in which London is devastated by a 1000 year flood AND fire caused by the explosion of a tanker on the downstream side of the Thames Flood Barrier.

In 1953, over 300 people were killed by flooding on the Thames, so the government finally decided to build a series of steel gates downriver, near Greenwich, that could be raised from the sea floor in time of high water. Twenty years later, construction was finally begun, and the gates were finished in 1986.

In this book, Doyle postulates that a combination of factors leads to extra high tides on the Thames. Rain has saturated the ground, so there is no place for the runoff. The engineers on the flood barrier are reasonably certain that the gates will hold, but what they don't count on is a fully loaded tanker crashing into an oil refinery downstream from the barrier, causing the Thames to start burning, and the tide to cause the fire to travel upstream.

A large shopping center has been carved out of an old chalk mine. It is the week before Christmas and there are thousands of people buying their last minute Christmas present. They have been assured that they are safe but the chalk fractures.

As the fire and flood travel upstream, communities downstream are flooded out. There are thousands of children in the Millenium Dome enjoying an ice show when they are ordered out. But the underground is full, so they have to walk out on the tracks of the Docklands light rail.

It looks as though the barrier may hold and keep the water borne holocaust from the center of London, but ...

Do not expect any character development or story line other than the inexorable spread of the fire up the Thames Estuary, but if you like disaster thrillers, this is one of the best.


Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, March 2003

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