When a Turkish bandit holds engineers building the Baghdad Railway to ransom, Britain is secretly relieved as the Railway threatens the Persian Gulf oil-fields.
Feigning help, the Foreign Office sends the notorious Lady Kelso, once lover of the bandit chief, with Captain Matthew Ranklin and Conall O'Gilroy of the fledgling Secret Service Bureau as 'diplomatic protection'.
A journey by the Kaiser's private train to the bandit stronghold leads through ambush, betrayal, murder and bombardment. For there are others - German, Turkish and French - honourably putting their countries' interests above everything. In the misty Turkish mountains, all of Ranklin's military experience and O'Gilroy's back-streets savvy are tested to the full.
Gavin Lyall (1932-2003) lived in Hampstead and enjoyed sailing on the Thames in his motor cruiser. From 1959 to 1962 he was a newspaper reporter and the aviation correspondent for the Sunday Times. His first novel, The Wrong Side of the Sky, was published in 1961, drawing from his personal experiences in the Libyan Desert and in Greece. Lyall left journalism in 1963 to become a full-time author, writing 17 novels before his death in 2003.
If I could, I would create an Audible sub-genre: "Mysteries and thrillers, Espionage, British, Set in Istanbul". I have three in my audible library that are memorable. Eric Ambler's "A Coffin for Dimitrios" is the very best. Joseph Kanon's "Istanbul Passage" comes in third. (Yes, Kanon is an American author who probably read a lot of British spy novels while at Cambridge.) Gavin Lyall's book is a solid four star second.
Istanbul between the two world wars provides a stage with built in struggles between the European powers, an incubator for spying. It has a long history of religious and cultural clashes providing fertile ground for native conflict. Great physical beauty and a dark bazaar. All this raw material is fun to visit even in third rate novels.
This is a first rate novel. "All Honourable Men" has the distinction of being set in 1913 before WW I, so it takes a little digging into what you can recall of the European power structure of the times. Then you can relax and enjoy the the excellent plotting unravel and the characters develop through top notch narrative writing.
Oh! and the characters get to ride in the Kaiser's private carriage behind the Orient Express!
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I read all the Gavin Lyall books years ago except, I think, this one. I was really looking forward to it but at the end of Chapter 1, when suddenly nobody is what they seem, I got lost. I listened to Chapter 1 again, and still could not work it out. I am at the end of Chapter 2 and I'm giving up.