I read this book about 12-Nov-2004. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1973. This note was last modified Thursday, 22-May-2014 15:29:42 PDT.
This is book 4 of the "David Audley" series.
This note contains spoilers for the book.
I've also got a general page on Anthony Price.
I first read this somewhat late, as I recall, and regarded it as belonging to the later part of the series, where Audley at least is getting old and tired. The theme of this book is the old and tired people, after all. But I see that it was written quite early. It'll be interesting to see what I think of it reading it in this context.
From Richardson's point of view, it starts when he's pulled out of Dublin to try to get Audley's housekeeper (and old family retainer) Mrs. Clark to open up. Her husband shot a burglar in Audley's house, and it comes out that Audley and family are on vacation in Rome. But Audley hadn't notified his bosses (a second-class letter with a smeared postmark turns up later).
For General Montuori, it starts when he's at the airport meeting his mother and his mistress, and sees an old enemy drive in, watch Audley arrive, and drive off.
So Montuori puts his field man Villari and his analyst Boselli on it. It ends for Villari and a policeman, and almost for Boselli, in Ostia Antica.
Audley was following up traces of an industrial espionage operation, where some interesting information they shouldn't have had leaked from the Russians, perhaps deliberately, and ended up in the hands of Narva (an Italian oil-man) instead of with British Intelligence as intended. And Ruelle has grabbed his wife.
Meanwhile, the other plot thread, Little Bird to Narva to North Sea Oil. Little Bird mostly wanted his family out. He faked the North Sea information convincingly to Narva, and arranged his own death from natural causes (skipped his heart medicine and walked uphill fast) to make it convincing. And got lucky, the information he made up was correct. This last aspect confused everybody for quite a while. Even though it's not archaeological, this book is still built on two levels of mystery separated in time.
Audlyy gets the Kremlin, in the shape of Nikolai Panin, to tell him where Ruelle is hiding, and also sets them up to kill off Ruelle after Audley and General Montuori let them go (with their word of honor they won't do anything). But the car is found at the foot of a cliff nonetheless. So everybody gets what they want in the end, except for Ruelle and Korbel.
The title refers to a lot of things at once. Little Bird and Korbel are past their prime and see themselves as having failed; as does Ruelle. Audley and the General are getting on as well, though more successfully. But the book opens with the General fighting his failing eyesight, so it's a theme from page one.