When renowned academic Sir Evelyn Montagu is discovered dead in his apartment, Ayesha Ryder is called in to help. Initially, the investigators on the case only want her opinion on some documents found in the apartment. Montagu had clearly been tortured and his house ransacked - clues left at the scene suggest a Middle East link and Ayesha is something of a go to in those matters.
To Ayesha, though, nothing about the scene is straightforward. And as someone who was very, very close to Montagu, she quickly realizes he's left clues specifically for her to find. Those clues send Ayesha and the detectives on the case down a twisted path that places them all in danger. Obscure encoded messages lead them to the long and violent tension between Israel and Palestine and strangely to T.E. Lawrence and incidents that occurred around the time of his death. If Ayesha and the police can tease out the meaning of the clues, they may just find a motive for Montagu's murder and maybe even the identity of the people responsible. But only if they can live long enough to make it to the end.
I was quite pleasantly surprised by Nick Pengelley's debut! Ryder blends all of the best elements of political thriller, espionage, conspiracy theory, and history together to create a read that's part puzzle and all action.
Ayesha is a character with a mysterious past - terrorist ties (to some) and a reliable consultant (to others). DI Holden and DS Ryan make for good companions, even if they are somewhat cliche (Holden sometimes comes across as a not-quite-so-bright detective while Ryan is a bit of a know-it-all). Throw in the fascinating life and history of T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) and a slew of other well known figures (Churchill, Edward VIII...) and you have all the pieces you need to make a good book. Pengelley goes one further, though, making use of fabulous lesser-known history of London as a further backdrop to the story.
The real meat of the tale, though, is set in the controversial establishment of the State of Israel. Montagu, a scholar with an avid interest in T.E. Lawrence, makes a discovery that, on the eve of a new peace talk between Israel and Palestine, could have overwhelming ramifications for everyone involved. Before you know it, Ayesha and her friends are caught in the middle of a decades long political argument, with no real idea who is an ally and who is an enemy.
Ryder really was quite fun and clever! This kicks off a new e series, one that will appeal to fans of Steve Berry's Cotton Malone books.
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