Lt. Wilfrid Stewart arrives at the Italian front just as his brother Major Richard Stewart is transferred to General Harold Alexander's personal staff: linguist Richard is to report to ""Alex"" on the multi-national troop morale--a vital issue now that the Allies have reached the insuperable German position in the 1500-year-old Benedictine monastery on Montecassino hill. (The monks have been exiled, and General von Senger, himself a Catholic, commands the Panzer Corps defending the monastery.) And, when Richard reveals just what he thinks of the Allies' plan to blow up the monastery (""barbaric!""), Gen. Alexander lets him volunteer to lead a small Commando group into the monastery, from the Nazi side of the mountain, to see whether or not German troops are emplaced within. So off go Stewart's Benedictine Commandos: eight handpicked soldiers who set out in two captured German vehicles, accompanied by partisan Maria--a nurse who'll later be disguised as a nun to help get them through the lines, Treacherous mountain-trekking ensues, the commandos do reach the monastery--but they're too late to stop the bombing (a foregone conclusion all along); Stewart is captured and tortured for 14 days; he's saved by Commandos. . . and returns to find brother Wilfrid killed by a sniper. Lively, solidly researched WW II action/history--from a writer known here (as Douglas Rutherford) for his sturdy suspense novels.