For years in the 1980s and 1990s Anthony Price was one of my favourite thriller authors and I’ve often meant to return to his novels. His years of success – great success indeed, given the regularity with which his titles appeared in paperback and in book awards lists – pre-dated the rise of the downloadable audio book, so I feared that his titles would slip into obscurity with only the rare and obscure cassette tape version of some titles available to be dug out here and there.
However his continuing sales have not only seen new versions of his David Audley series released in print in recent years but also downloadable audio ones now start to appear too. The initial batch of releases is a slightly odd one, for War Game is the earliest one in the series to have come out but it is by no means the earliest in the series, being the seventh.
The series has a consistent cast of characters and – unlike many such series – a cast of characters who age and evolve across the titles. Otherwise, however, they are mostly free-standing with only the occasional cross-title reference, so War Game is a good entry point to the series for new readers.
David Audley is a British spy with a penchant for history and in this book sets out to investigate a suspected far-left rabble rouser who claims to have found a cache of gold hidden during the English Civil War and to have a rock-solid legal claim to it. Will he be able to use the gold to fund sedition?
As with the other Anthony Price novels, there is action but the real intrigue, tension and enjoyment comes from the intricately constructed dialogues, usually between two characters and occasionally between more, during which multiple levels of motives and understanding are weaved to make for subtle and clever verbal exchanges.
All great fun, with a rich historical background and politicians who are interfering but not the lazy, caricature idiots that second-rate writers (or even the occasional first-rate one too) rely on when they need a convenient fall guy for a plot.
Add to that a nuanced approach to morality and this is no superficial action hero spy novel. It’s much better than that.