Tug of War Synopsis
April – May 1942 Captain John Garrett of the Australian Army has been ordered back to Melbourne from Townsville to investigate a suspected intelligence leak in Central Bureau. Garrett and an American Captain, Al Tucker are placed into the unit ostensibly as intelligence officers with no one, including the current section leader Captain Anthony Myers, aware of their mission. Tucker begins to work against Garrett who desperately tries to track down the spy operating in the city. In doing so he discovers the most closely guarded secret of the Pacific war. As he draws closer to the truth so begins a life and death battle for survival. (Amazon)
I thoroughly enjoyed the last title I read from Australian author Ross Collier, a contemporary urban thriller, Sink or Swim. His latest novel, Tug of War, is his first and very successful foray into the historical thriller genre.
What I particularly like about Ross Collier’s fiction, regardless of historical time period, is his no-nonsense approach to both his prose and the actions of his characters. In Tug of War he takes his readers hostage with a killer opening.
He lay on his back and stared up at the six men standing in a semi circle around him. They were smiling, laughing. They were, he concluded, happy he would die.
The tension was high and I was hooked.
Ross Collier has developed a great ensemble cast to support his everyday hero with a big heart, in this case, Captain John Garrett of the Australian Army. John Garrett is your quintessential underdog – smart and capable but with the odds stacked against from the very beginning.
His mother kind and never complaining. Garrett had no doubt the stress of the depression, the stress of not having money, killed his father. It had made him bitter. As if the effort of surviving had drained his strength, defeated his will to live. When Garrett, their youngest son, was offered a university scholarship his parents were determined he would go. It had been his father’s dream, despite it denying an additional bread winner. In the end he had pursued his studies while turning his hand to a variety of jobs to earn money for the family.
Despite the high action, edge-of-your-seat thriller storyline, Collier understands the value of quieter moments, and some of Garrett’s tender interactions with family add real gravity to the story.
Ross Collier’s talent for character development and authentic evocation of time and place shines in Tug of War.
Although this is fiction, I feel I now have a greater understanding of the role of the service men (Australian and American) stationed in Australia during the second world war. Collier’s descriptions of historical Melbourne and Townsville rang true for me and I felt as if I were transported back in time into the characters’ world.
They stared into each other’s eyes and Garrett knew he had no choice. If he didn’t trace the leak in the section many men’s lives were at risk. His own military career too would be in tatters due to no fault of his own. A third failure Bell had called it. Three strikes and you’re out.
Another stand-out for me in this novel is Garrett’s love interest, Jennifer Lamb. She is a feisty, intelligent and independent young woman straining against societal expectations for women at the time. I felt the dramatic interactions and dialogue between the pair throughout the novel were some of the most plausible I have read from a male author’s pen for some time.
“Go,” she said and turned her face away from him. Garrett climbed down onto the road and walked across the intersection and caught sight of the back of her head. It looked like she had her face in her hands. At that moment Garrett felt angrier than he had ever felt in his life. Angry at the army, angry at the world and especially angry at himself.
With a complex character web and the ever present whiff of espionage, nothing is what it seems in Tug of War. The final chapters pack a punch and leave you questioning your notions of right and wrong. I highly recommend this historical thriller, Tug of War by Ross Collier.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4.5 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5
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* This review counts towards my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge 2012
Author Information: Ross Collier lives on a small farm in Victoria, Australia. He writes thrillers with universal themes set in Australia. His previous novels include Sink or Swim (my review) and The Fenians.
– Check out Ross Collier’s official website
Another review of Tug of War: Turner’s Antics
* My receiving this title free from the author did not impact my expression of my honest opinions in this book review.