Jack Furey is a decent man caught up in an indecent time.
Retired police sergeant Jack Furey is celebrating his 100th birthday, and he’s not happy about it. Unable to speak following a stroke and estranged from his son, all he wants is to reunite with his beloved, late wife.
After a visit from an old friend, he finds himself reliving the past. Suddenly, it’s 1942 and the US troops are about to descend on the town of Wangamba, Australia, where Jack is expected to maintain law and order. When an Australian soldier on leave is murdered, he has to work out who was responsible and why.
Along the way, Jack has to deal with corrupt officials, MPs with attitude, and Australian and American soldiers ready for some R and R. Everywhere he looks, people are misbehaving. It’s up to Jack to restore peace to his wartime North Queensland town.
Both native Australians, Lawless and Bell offer readers a pitch-perfect immersion in their milieu, presenting a nuanced view of the nation and its people, refreshingly free from stereotypes. Furey's own prejudices come to the forefront when a trip to an Aboriginal neighborhood highlights Australian racism, and again when he meets the American commanding officer with his Southern accent: "…they draw out their vowels, like what they have to say is somehow more important than anything anyone else has to say." Although the novel’s episodic approach and lack of a strong central narrative blunts the force of its conclusion, the individual stories never fail to engage.
The most richly drawn character is Furey himself, scarred by his World War I experience and full of contradictions. He’s still deeply devoted to his late wife yet cranky around almost everyone else, especially the town gossip, whom he loathes. Despite being a Catholic, Furey hints at a mournful respect for an abortionist who offered her service to desperate women. The final mystery is a heartbreaking tale of forbidden love. "There is no redemption, and no one is saved," concludes Furey, but he has, in fact, spent the whole book saving himself, even as a final twist calls into question his reliability as a narrator. Readers will no doubt be pondering the good and bad choices the downtrodden characters make long after finishing the book.
Takeaway: Fans of classic police procedurals will revel in the crisp storytelling, fresh setting, and emotionally damaged sleuth.
Great for fans of: Ian Rankin, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: B+
A crime novel in intent, FUREY'S WAR is also a character study and a history lesson combined. It was a strange time for many small towns, caught up in the consequences of war, but separated from the immediacy of action. It's particularly enlightening as an example of just what went on for people attempting to keep the home fires burning, and the loss of previously accepted norms of behaviour. Jack's very much a policeman attempting ordinary policing in extraordinary times.
The novel ends with a return to the current day and Jack's 100th birthday party, which probably didn't go as expected for the dreaded nursing home, and you can't help thinking went exactly as Jack would have wanted.
Overall a most unusual novel, a really quick read on one level, but a thought-provoking one on many more.
'At 200 pages, it's very well written and although not necessarily 'fast paced', with short chapters it can be read in one sitting. I haven't read many books written in Australian voices and it took a bit to discern the meanings of some of the slang used by some of the characters but that was only a minor distraction. All-in-all, this is a very enjoyable read and one I recommend to historical fiction and mystery fans everywhere.'
What I enjoyed about this book is that Mr. Lawless included so many real life issues. We can relate to the situations. His depictions of life in 1942, were on point. We have issues of race, abortions, prostitutions, murders and lets not forget Church and State.
Overall, it’s a wonderful detective book that shows the real struggles the police force face each day especially in times of war.
T W Lawless and Kay Bell on recreating a real Australian character in 'Furey's War'