4 out of 4 stars
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The Warramunga’s War is the first novel in a trilogy by author Greg Kater which commences during World War II. In 1941 Jack O’Brien (Jacko) saves the life of Lieutenant James Munro (Jamie) during an engagement of the Australian force against the Vichy French in Beirut. Jacko is half Warramunga, a member of an aborigine tribe of the Northern Territory of Australia, and his mystic skills of direction give him the edge in battle. When Jamie is given the opportunity to work in the intelligence service in Cairo, he immediately proposes Jacko as a trusted NCO to accompany him. While they hunt for German spies, enlisting the aid of nightclub ladies to assist them, authorities in Cairo are in search of a predator who has raped and killed multiple women. The novel spans their work during the period in Cairo as well as their return to Australia where their encounter with a colleague from their past leads to deadly consequences.
Greg Kater has done an admirable job in his first work in developing characters who are very likeable, whose easy banter between them is relatable and who can stand the test of time for a trilogy. The writing of this novel is quite descriptive and the author has obviously done much research to ensure accurate timelines and dates as he inputs them into the work to give it a historical context. In addition, the return to Australia provides much insight into life at this time, including the racial tensions and regulations regarding aborigine people during this era. Readers will also enjoy details of Australia’s geography and the cultural exposition of the Warramunga corroboree.
In this novel, women play very important roles although they are not officers or officially connected to the war effort. In Cairo, Jamie and Jacko recruit local women who work in the nightclubs and those who have relationships with individuals of interest in order to obtain vital information. These ladies become paid informants, at times risking imprisonment and even their lives to help the allied forces. In contrast, the British women in the novel are portrayed somewhat as victims: having lost their soldier husbands, they seek relationships with other officers in order to return to England. In Australia, Jacko is aided by his sister Sarah whose Warramunga tracking skills and ability to connect with others plays a significant role in locating a band of criminals. It will be interesting to see how the role of women is developed throughout the trilogy.
My concern about this novel is the lack of drama. It seems too good to be true for officers to meet every week at the same café with a variety of ladies, and not have someone question their actions, or try to listen into their conversations. While the officers’ cover was that they were recuperating from injury, there are no situations where this is demonstrated or even questioned. One senses the identity of the killer from early, and there are no surprises when it is revealed. Similarly the hunt for the criminals on return to Australia proceeds with linear precision: even when a few obstacles are encountered, help always arrives without question.
Nevertheless, the work must be commended as a good first effort. Editing was professionally done and the writing flows well. Persons who are history buffs or who are interested in learning about Australia during and after World War II will enjoy this novel. There is also a budding love story to be fulfilled in the next novel, so I look forward to the second instalment of this trilogy. I give this novel 4 out of 4 stars.
The Warramunga's War
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