Zap! Zap! Zap! The machine gun bullets thudded into Jamie’s knapsack …’
This novel, the first in a trilogy, follows the friendship that develops between Jamie Munro and Jack ‘Jacko’ O’Brien during the Syrian campaign against the Vichy French in World War II. Both are serving with the Australian Army when the story opens: Jamie is an officer, Jacko is an NCO. Their friendship and then a working partnership begins when Jacko rescues Jamie after he is wounded. Jamie is from New South Wales while Jacko identifies as part-Aboriginal, a Warramunga from the Tennant Creek region.
After Jamie recovers from his injuries, Jacko and Jamie become part of an MI6 team in Cairo. The main objective of this team is to disrupt German operations in the desert west of Cairo. Local entertainers are some of the undercover agents used, misleading radio messages using German codes are sent, and Jacko meets Monique a beautiful young French-Syrian woman.
When the desert war is finished, Jamie and Jacko are assigned to wartime intelligence work in Southeast Asia. Once the Pacific War concludes, Jamie and Jacko are involved in the Darwin operations of the Commonwealth Investigation Service. While on the trail of suspected German agents, they discover a connection with someone they had known in Cairo.
What can I say about this novel? I dislike references to Aboriginal people as ‘half-caste’, although I appreciate that the term may have been considered less offensive in the 1940s than it is now. While I found the story easy to follow, there were quite a few people (and quite a lot of action) to keep track of. I liked that Jacko and Jamie were equally important in the story, which demonstrated very clearly the novel’s central themes of loyalty and mateship.
As soon as I finished, I started reading the second novel in the trilogy, because I wanted to know what would happen next.
Note: My thanks to NetGalley and BooksGoSocial for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.