I read this book about 23-Nov-2004. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1978. This note was last modified Thursday, 22-May-2014 15:31:07 PDT.
This is book 8 of the "David Audley" series.
This note contains spoilers for the book.
I've also got a general page on Anthony Price.
This is a sudden, huge, departure in the series. It's the origin story for Butler, particularly, and also Audley, back during WWII, in Normandy (so that places it as later summer or early fall of 1944, it seems to me). Corporal Butler, detached from his regiment for special duty, and Mr. Audley (subaltern, the rank with no title). Duty with Chandos Force. So already history rears its ugly head, and in fact Major O'Conor is already discussing the history with them on page 48.
Huh, later Audley is referred to as "second lieutenant". And later still as a "Cornet" of dragoons, I believe. I'm probably confused over subtleties of British rank structure.
Butler has already reminisced about many aspects of his childhood, showing how he came to be the man he is, how he came to a military career, and how he ended up in Intelligence (which it's already clear was very much not what he wanted; but, well, duty). Mind you, he doesn't actually realize he's in Intelligence at that point.
On page 136, and we're just past the third attempt on Butler's life (second for Audley and Sergeant Winston) by the villains in Chandos Force. Butler actually heard the Major give the order for the elimination of himself, Audley, and Colonel Clinton shortly before Taffy tried to kill him and lost. And Audley has articulated the theory that they're the real Chandos force, and have to complete the actual mission while also preventing the villains from stealing the loot. None of them know, at this point, that the "valuable" stuff is just information, and that it has in fact been rendered into wood pulp by flooding. So the whole book, on both sides, is actually a waste of time. Four deaths so far, and we're just getting started.
This book comes in publication order after we've met Colonel Butler's three daughters, and know that his wife is dead (and just before we hear a lot more about that). And it shows the first meeting between Corporal Butler and Madelaine Boucard and his promise to her, which is rather heart-rending viewed in terms of that future. (She's the daughter of Audley's godmother, in the family he spent his summers with for a while to make sure he learned French).