The Great Deception

Written by Joy Chambers
Review by Hanne Pearce

A few years after WWII, Shelly and her husband Cole have settled on a farm southwest of Sydney. Knowing little about what her husband has endured at war, Shelly goes about building a life for them. The idyllic and rustic peace of their lives in the country is brought abruptly to a halt when one of Cole’s old army friends makes a surprise visit to the farm. The following night Cole goes missing, vanishing into the night with the promise to return. Frightened and confused, the only clues Shelly has to where her husband may have gone are some strange items she finds in his army things: medals awarded to a German soldier, a portrait of a young, beautiful woman, and evidence to suggest that Cole may not have been an average soldier. On the other side of the world, Cole struggles to unravel a situation that has pitted his former colleagues against him. Believing Cole betrayed the Allies when spying on the Nazis, his old comrades seek to take his life as revenge.

The novel spares nothing when it comes to setting. Starting in the farmlands of Australia, it carries us to England and then to occupied Europe amidst a turbulent war that was fought with weapons and also with subterfuge. There is definitely artfulness in the way Chambers has woven facts together into fiction. This story also manages to convey the confusing and complicated web of loyalties that Allied spies endured in order to succeed in their missions. Chambers has written a good story, but despite her meticulous research, the narrative style is a bit wanting. Limiting the perspective to either Shelly or Cole could have enhanced the intensity and momentum of the novel. It also seemed to me that too much was revealed to the reader at the onset, and there was a predictability to the story that prevented it from achieving its full potential.