Written by Howard Linskey — When the assassination of the scientist behind Hitler’s miracle jet fighter is ordered, there is only one man who can do the job – burned out soldier, spy and, not quite a gentleman, Captain Harry Walsh. He’s ruthless and damaged by the trauma of Dunkirk and the loss of his closest friend, but allied victory in Europe depends on Walsh, or the war may be won by Germany if the Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet conquers the skies.
Published on the 75thanniversary of D Day, 6 June 1944, Ungentlemanly Warfare is set around Rouen in Normandy the previous year. He must kill Professor Gaerte before he can solve the problem of why the jets crash after a few minutes in the air.
The details of the operation are kept secret from Harry’s uptight boss, Price, who loathes him and is determined to show the top brass they are making a huge mistake by putting their trust in Harry Walsh. Only the higher echelons of the Special Operations Executive are in the know, as SOE mastermind Major-General Sir Colin Gubbins dispatches Harry, a secret and unorthodox weapon, into the field.
His fellow operatives are American Captain Sam Cooper from the Office of Strategic Services, who left Harry to his fate during an earlier operation in Yugoslavia, and Christophe Valvert of the Free French. The trio are set to join a cell of ill-equipped and unprepared Maquis Resistance operating around Rouen.
First there’s some training and a cameo appearance by Kim Philby, a lecturer at SOE training school, who went on to rise through MI6 and be unmasked as a KGB mole. Ian Fleming appears as a young naval officer and witnesses the inventions of Elder Wills – similar to Q in his James Bond novels. William Fairbairn instructs the guerrillas being parachuted behind enemy lines, in the dark art of silent killing.
Meanwhile in France, ranks of Gestapo and soldiers are terrorised and terrified by Reichsmarschall Goering and we witness first hand the punishment meted on those who don’t make the grade and the torture, killings and reprisals on French civilians.
Walsh and his band are dropped into this highly-charged territory to discover the Maquis and prove even more disorganised than he feared. It is now that you will witness Harry at his finest as he brings his unruly band of brothers together and trains them to wreak havoc on the German occupiers.
The book’s title comes from Churchill’s quote about the SOE being ‘The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’ because of its unorthodox fighting methods. It could also allude to SOE operative Emma Stirling, who carries out one of the bravest and crucial acts of the mission. She’s young and in love with Harry, who is unhappily married. They indulge in an intense affair and risk their lives to save each other. The book opens when they are under fire in an earlier clandestine adventure in France.
Harry and the others that make up the brave band of fictional and real characters are three-dimensional, revealing their fears, hopes and loyalties in desperate times when their actions could influence the outcome of the War.
There’s high stakes and violence, but always with the light touch of an iron fist in a velvet glove before the punch smashes through.
Like Linskey’s first wartime novel, Hunting the Hangman, which features a mission to kill super evil Reinhard Heydrich, the main architect of the Holocaust, this is a superior historical caper – page-turning and irresistible with the flavour of a classic World War II thriller. Bring on more please.
No Exit Press
CFL Rating: 5 Stars