4 out of 4 stars
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The Warramunga’s War begins with machine gun bullets and flies at a similarly breakneck pace throughout. The story begins in the initial years of the Second World War in Syria and Lebanon where the Australian army is fighting the pro-Nazi Vichy French. It starts with the extraordinary rescue of Lieutenant James Monroe, Jamie, by Corporal Jack O’Brien, Jacko, who performs a magician’s trick of shooting backward over his head and striking his target. A French Foreign Legionnaire had Jamie trapped in a shallow depression, and Jacko crawled up unseen and made short work of the enemy.
Jacko returns to the front lines with intelligence from Jamie, Jamie gets pinned down by the enemy and eventually wounded. When he wakes up in hospital, he understands that Jacko again came to his rescue and trotted miles to the hospital with Jamie over his shoulder. The two men become firm friends. Jamie is promoted to captain and sent to Egypt for undercover work, and he selects the now sergeant Jacko to go with him. In Cairo, they meet with Captain Johnny Cook of MI 16 who explains that Cairo is seething with spies from many nations, but the Germans are the most dangerous. The British Military staff Officers have become soft with the good life and are incapable of recognizing an enemy agent which is why Johnny needs Jamie and Jacko. The British and Australians need to hold Cairo against the approaching Rommel-led German forces, so getting good intelligence information is critically important.
Greg’s knowledge of the war effort is extensive and well researched. The descriptions of the sights and sounds of Egypt and later Australia are stimulating and bring the countries to life. There are other themes besides war and a love interest for Jacko. The Warramunga’s War is a real page-turner, and hard to put down. It’s equally unusual because it is about a different age when men were more chivalrous, and women although brave and strong, still appreciated chivalry.
Greg Kater is a master of suspense. When Greg describes a battle scene or the countryside, it’s as though the reader is there, part of the experience. The people are real, the surroundings are real, and the reader is part of the action. For a particular group of readers, like myself born in England, the use of British and Australian slang and French conversation invokes memories of childhood and nationality.
I love the scenes in which half aborigine Jacko, and his full aborigine sister Sarah, demonstrate their prodigious tracking skills. Jacko and Sarah’s tracking skills make up some of the choicest parts of the plot and will keep you on the edge of your seat imagining you too are floating in and out of the shadows. The images I smiled at the most are of a naked Sarah, slipping into hostile territory, literally like a shadow because of her dark skin, rescuing the two aborigine girls, also naked, to escape their vicious captors. All you see in the dark are three sets of white teeth as the girls smiling with relief after being rescued.
Less agreeable is the need to gain intelligence by using prostitutes and belly dancers. But that is the nature of war and Greg writes about it showing the patriotic side of the women and their goodwill towards the war effort.
This book deserves a rating of 4 out of 4 stars for keeping you on the edge of your seat, for being professionally edited and its accurate research. I discovered no grammatical or spelling errors. A rating of 3 out of 4 stars would be inappropriate for such an excellent war story, such a superb travelogue, and its humor. I recommend the book to a broad audience including war aficionados, history buffs, mystery lovers and people who enjoy good winning over evil. It is not recommended for people who like romances although there is a wholesome love interest in the story.
The Warramunga's War
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