The Alamut Ambush is one of the early volumes in Anthony Price’s series of espionage thrillers featuring David Audley. Usually in such series the books are written from the perspective of either a main character or a regular trusted sidekick (think Doctor Watson for Sherlock Holmes). However, in various books in the series, Price picks different characters to use as the point of view for that particular volume.
This time it is the turn of former air force man Hugh Roskill, who takes the reader through another twisting plot based in Britain but using the backdrop of 1970s Middle East politics and Cold War espionage.
It starts with the apparent accidental death of a character from the preceding volume, but it quickly becomes clear the death is no accident. Roskill and Audley work to find out what really happened, battling several possible threats from the Middle East, not to mention their own colleagues and even at times each other.
There are a couple of particularly nice touches Anthony Price brings to the novel. First is the way he handles the often artificial coincidences authors use to set up several potential guilty parties for the reader to then be teased about as each in turn become more and then less likely to be the guilty party. In The Alamut Ambush there are apparent coincidences aplenty in the early parts of the book, setting up the drama – and yet as the rest of the book unfolds it becomes clear that they are all parts of one logically connected plot, and are not simply artificially created moments of drama.
At the end, too, Price gives a fresher and more convincing version of the usual idea of a twist or two just as the plot nears its conclusion. Twists there certainly are, but they do not involve the sudden revelation of key information withheld from the reader or implausible moments of high drama. Instead they are more subtle and thoughtful, based on people suddenly seeing the evidence laid out before them in new ways.
That all makes for a thoughtful, interesting read where close attention has to be paid to the dialogue as it is often only nuanced and complicated exchanges which reveal what is going on. There is no simple ‘and now I’ll explain all’ revelation near the end.