I read this book about 1-Dec-2004. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1980. This note was last modified Thursday, 22-May-2014 15:31:57 PDT.
This is book 10 of the "David Audley" series.
This note contains spoilers for the book.
I've also got a general page on Anthony Price.
Another major historical excursion; this one to the British Expeditionary Force in France at the start of WWII (May 1940). And very little character overlap -- we have Nigel Audley, who is David Audley's father-of-record, and William Willis ("Wimpy"), who is Nigel's good friend and David's actual father, and who appears in at least one of the David Audley books. And I believe Fred Clinton has appeared briefly, in a very remarkable undercover role. That seems to be it.
Audley, Willis, and Harry Bastable are officers in the Prince Regent's Own South Downs Fusiliers. Most of the regiment is in the wrong Colembert, they're just figuring out (most of the the higher levels of officers seem to be incompetent).
Bastable and Willis are reconnoitering when they discover a huge number of German tanks and men over the next line of hills. And they find two British officers that had visited their regiment recently talking in a friendly way with high German officers; obviously imposters or traitors. Bastable is seen but escapes, leaving Willis' binoculars (with his name on them) behind.
By the time they manage to get back to Colembert (complicated by refugees and German army operations), the town is hardly there, and the regiment isn't there at all -- even those who surrendered were murdered by an SS squad that came by later. They escape on a liberated motorcycle, but are captured by regular German army units before they can reach Arras. Willis happens to be wearing the tunic of the medical officer (for no apparent reason, he obtained it and changed into it), and gets suspicious when he learns they are specifically looking for W.M. Willis. The Germans have realized it's as important to stop them as they think it's important to take their information to higher British command.
Bastable is a somewhat stupid, and very non-intellectual man, but he realizes that being three steps behind all the time is dangerous in their circumstances, and is working hard to catch up. Willis is very sharp, and has been half a step ahead all the time. There are some parallels to Corporal Butler in The '44 Vintage that I find interesting; Butler starts putting more value on thought and knowledge, but he still starts out behind, and he and Bastable make great progress in using their brains productively.
The ending is a classic "near disaster that's all for the best", which I don't really approve of. But it does all fit. Bastable shoots the false brigadier twice in the face at short range, and misses (his incompetence with a handgun was previously established, at lesat). Clinton manages to fake shooting Bastable and hauls the body off before the German's notice. And Bastable's actions (and calling the brigadier a traitor) help convince the Germans to believe the brigadier's information -- which is in fact false, and which delays the German army just long enough for the Dunkirk miracle to happen.