A sequel chronicles the continuing adventures of two Australian intelligence officers in the postwar Pacific.
After their counterespionage duties in North Africa and subsequent work back in Australia to bring a murderous gang to justice, white officer Jamie Munro and his partner, the excellent tracker of half-Aboriginal descent Jacko O’Brien, are hoping that the remainder of their time with the Commonwealth Investigation Service will be a little quieter. Not so. When reports of a stranded ship reach them during Christmas lunch at the Hotel Darwin, the duo goes out to lend a hand. Approaching the storm-tossed ship, Jamie spots something in the waves: “As they came alongside the object, it appeared to be a small human body. They hauled the body into the cutter using a gaff and saw that it was indeed the body of a small boy.” Even more disturbingly, another child is found in the hull of the ship, this one alive but very scared. It seems that the vessel is trafficking children, though for what purpose Jamie and Jacko must investigate. The case brings them to the Philippines, where the destruction wrought by World War II has left thousands of orphans easy prey for predators and kidnappers. In their quest to find out who is buying these children, the CIS officers will probe deeper than perhaps is wise—especially when it provokes the kidnappers into taking one of their own. In this second installment of a trilogy, Kater’s (The Warramunga’s War, 2018) prose is reliably sharp and gripping, particularly when describing the devastation of the war: “They drew closer to the port area, where most of the buildings had been reduced to rubble and were covered in weeds, while those still standing were empty and badly damaged. The ground was heavily potholed and most trees seemed to have been cut to shreds.” This work feels more confident than the author’s previous Warramunga effort, and hews more closely to a traditional plot structure. The milieu is captivating and the characters are likable, which, when coupled with a perfectly serviceable crime story involving a shadowy syndicate, make for a pleasing bit of escapism.
A colorful and engrossing thriller set in Australia and the Philippines.