Sunday, 31 January 2010

“Gunner Kelly”, Anthony Price

Through his Audley/Mitchell series of novels Anthony Price typically carved a niche out hanging a political thriller plot over an often obscure historical series of events. Generally speaking the history would often be more engaging than the core plot, giving the impression that Price had managed to come up with a really interesting historic tale he wanted to tell, and put all his effort into this, only as an afterthought shoehorning a contemporary plotline into the mix.

"Gunner Kelly", published in 1982, so constituting one of Price's later works, is subtly different. Yes, there's some history - discussions of World War II armoured warfare and the Roman presence in Britain, but by no means is this at the heart of the story. Nor are the usual protagonists David Audley and Paul Mitchell at the heart of the work, instead the story comes very largely from the perspective of German intelligence office Benedikt Schneider. As such it's strongly reminiscent of Le Carre's "The Honourable Schoolboy", and is very nearly as good.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the work is the transformation of Schneider from being someone who you inherently oppose, to realising that he's the hero of the piece. Schneider's a thoroughly believable character, professional but not perfect, and with a background that supports what he does over the course of the book. Audley too, while more peripheral in the narrative, is as likable as ever and brings a wry insight to proceedings.

A final word, almost an aside should go to the choice of pull quotes, The Observer's "whorls of mystification" and "the plot moves as sinuously as a frogman through the reeds" from The Telegraph are both magnificent. Newspaper's aren't what they used to be are they?

 
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