Furey's War, T.W. Lawless & Kay Bell

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

Jack Furey is 100 years old, in a nursing home, and not a happy man. In the introduction to FUREY'S WAR it quickly becomes apparent that Jack is his own man, not somebody to be trifled with, and definitely not somebody to underestimate, even after a devastating stroke. Inside his head, Jack's as clear as a bell, really annoyed at everything to do with the nursing home (and who could blame him), and desperate to reunite with his much loved, late wife Gracie.

The story quickly heads back to 1942, and the town of Wangamba in Australia, where Jack was the local copper, a small town and community suddenly having to deal with an influx of US troops, stationed nearby. Then comes the murder of an Australian soldier, houses turned into brothels, nightclubs, the return of an alleged backyard abortionist, strained and abusive race relations (Black Americans and local Aboriginals), and two dead babies. This is also a Catholic run town, so the all too well known problems of sexual abuse by priests, and the local church busybody carrying on about everything but, thankfully get an airing in this novel as well.

At the heart of the story though is Jack Furey. A man of his time, his language would not be appropriate today and his policing style would raise eyebrows, but he's a decent man at heart, a man who loves his wife, tried his best to raise a son, and deal with people all around him flat out behaving very badly indeed.

FUREY'S WAR is a surprisingly short novel of 199 pages, especially when you look back over just how much subject matter is covered, quite comprehensively. The main components of the story - the goings on in 1942 Wangamba are told in that time, so there's a really strong feeling of the impact that war had on Australia. A time of great change, not so much direct and immediate threat from enemies, but the complications that the shift in lifestyles and expectations created. Jack particularly seems to reflect that discomfort that comes with unexpected and unwanted winds of change, his life was quiet, controlled, predictable and that suited him. Chaos, flux and turmoil don't fit well with his personality type, even though a clearing out of some skeletons does.

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.


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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.

Review Furey's War, T.W. Lawless & Kay Bell
Karen Chisholm
Tuesday, April 20, 2021

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