Beyond the end of the Second World War, after the Japanese surrender, the fighting never ceased
in China …
This is the fourth historical novel in the Warramunga series by Greg Kater. The events take place during 1946 when former army officer, Jamie Munro, and educated half-aborigine, Jack “Jacko” O’Brien, who head the Commonwealth Investigation Service in Darwin, are asked by Colonel John Cook, a senior commanding officer of MI6, to go to China and assist in the investigation of a drug cartel who are believed responsible for killing one of his operatives along the Yangtze River.
During the recent war, Jamie and Jacko had worked in intelligence operations with Colonel Cook during the desert campaign in North Africa, as the Afrika Corps threatened Egypt, and later in South East Asia in the aftermath of war.
The pair arrive in Shanghai via Manila in the aftermath of the Japanese occupation with Harry Williams, chief of the US intelligence agency, Office of Strategic Services (OSS), in the Philippines. They had worked with Harry previously in the Philippines on a case involving child smuggling (The Warramunga’s Aftermath of War). They are met at Shanghai’s Bund Docks by Johnny and Lee Drake, a half-Chinese MI6 operative who had lived in Shanghai, posing as a tea merchant, throughout the war. Jamie and Jacko learn that the current state of affairs in China is very complicated. They not only have to contend with the drug cartel but also with gangs, warlords and corrupt personages of influence. They are told the opium produced by the drug cartel is shipped to the Philippines for treatment and from there to the USA and Australia. To reach the centre of the opium operations it is necessary to travel hundreds of miles in a motorised junk up the Yangtze River where hostile, trigger-happy gangs and groups inhabit the riverbanks.
"The poignancy in the way he describes events and the ability to get readers to connect with the characters is one of the gifts that make this book a must-read."
"Conflict on the Yangtze is a rollicking historical adventure novel set in exotic locations with plenty of action and engaging characters."
"With a stunning cover, Greg Kater’s Conflict on the Yangtzealso shines with a title surrounded by mystery and legend. Published in 2019 by Zeus Publications, the book is a historical novel abounding in lots of action, adventure, and suspense. Although it follows on from the Warramunga trilogy, it could easily be read as a standalone novel."
"‘Conflict on the Yangtze’ is well-researched. The writing is clear and uncluttered; the story is told in true British ‘stiff upper lip’ fashion. Fans of post-war China should find it a highly enjoyable read."
Awarded the Coffee Pot Bookclub Award
"From the poppy fields along the Yangtze River in China to the splendour of the Roper River in Australia, Conflict on the Yangtze, by Greg Kater is the truly gripping account of an opium cartel and those who are determined to stop it."
"I was delighted when I discovered that there was a sequel to The Warramunga Trilogy. Having thoroughly enjoyed the first three books I could not wait to reacquaint myself with Jamie and Jacko. I was hoping for another fabulous adventure, and I am pleased to say that Kater did not disappoint."
"The author once again proves to be adept at using his characters’ adventures to explore the minutiae of various countries in Asia and Oceania after World War II... those who enjoyed the previous books in the series will surely appreciate this newest one."
Review Rating: 5 Stars
Conflict on the Yangtze by Greg Kater is a historical thriller set in China, within the context of events unfolding against the backdrop of the year just after the Japanese surrender in World War II. This is the fourth book in the Warramunga series. Jamie Munro and Jack “Jacko” O’Brien make an amazing pair that leads the Commonwealth Investigative Service in Darwin and who find themselves on a mission that challenges their skills and puts their lives at great risk. When their senior commanding officer, Colonel John Cook, tasks them with the mission to investigate the murder of one of his operatives along the Yangtze River, they set to work and arrive in Shanghai through Manila. What awaits them is far worse than anything they could have imagined — ruthless warlords, gangs, and a powerful cartel. No one seems to be what they look like and it’s hard to trust anyone. Can they uncover the truth in a world filled with deception, violence, and danger?
Greg Kater has a powerful command of language and right from the beginning the reader is introduced to the descriptive power of the prose. I enjoyed the way he captures images, smells, sights, and feelings in the writing, keeping it realistic: “The pervasive stench of human excrement, used as fertilizer in nearby rice paddies, assailed the nostrils of the two men creeping through the wooded area of broad-leafed trees and wind-tossed willows and scrub, towards the distant settlement backed by low hills.” The poignancy in the way he describes events and the ability to get readers to connect with the characters is one of the gifts that make this book a must-read. The historical setting comes out clearly and the descriptions of the locales as well as the ensuing action make it hard to put the book down. The narrow escapes, the quick action, and the uncertainty of the key characters keep the pulse of the writing strong. Conflict on the Yangtze is highly recommended for fans of historical thrillers and investigative stories.
Conflict on the Yangtze is a rollicking historical adventure novel set in exotic locations with plenty of action and engaging characters.
Taking place in 1946 across China, the Philippines, and Australia, it continues the Warramunga series, following Australian intelligence agents and adventurers Jamie Munro and Jacko O’Brien as they break up an opium smuggling ring, set against WWII’s aftermath and the Chinese civil war between the Nationalists and Communists.
The novel starts with a literal bang, as an MI6 agent is killed while investigating an opium facility in China. Because of their past help with the agency, Jamie and Jacko are asked to investigate. They begin in Shanghai, joined by their wives, Carna and Monique, travelling along the Yangtze River to the ring’s hideout. Meanwhile, in the Philippines on a work assignment, Carna’s parents stumble onto another branch of the criminals’ organization. As the story escalates, the heroes, including Jacko’s half-sister, Sarah, hunt down the remaining villains in rural Australia.
The book is well-paced, with fast, suspenseful action followed by quieter descriptions of the various locations, discussions about the Chinese civil war, and explanations of Shanghai’s ruling powers connected to the opium ring.
The novel frequently switches to the villains’ point of view, revealing them as so fully dimensional that some even start to seem sympathetic towards the book’s end. Sarah is a fascinating character as well, a young Aboriginal with excellent tracking skills. While she can imitate her brother’s perfect English, she usually speaks in a mixture of English and Aboriginal, frequently describing things as "bikpela" (or "big").
While the exposition can feel clunky at times, particularly when explaining Jamie and Jacko's wartime past, and so many secondary characters appear briefly that it’s difficult to keep track of them, this does little to diminish overall enjoyment.
With the feel of an oldtime adventure story, the novel will especially appeal to genre fans, but anyone interested in a compelling story will enjoy Conflict on the Yangtze.
With a stunning cover, Greg Kater’s Conflict on the Yangtzealso shines with a title surrounded by mystery and legend. Published in 2019 by Zeus Publications, the book is a historical novel abounding in lots of action, adventure, and suspense. Although it follows on from the Warramunga trilogy, it could easily be read as a standalone novel.
Following the defeat of the Japanese in World War II, Jamie Munro and Jack ‘Jacko’ O’Brien work for CIS (the Commonwealth Investigation Service) in Darwin, Northern Australia. When Colonel John Cook of MI6 lets them know of the death of one of their operatives in China, they do not hesitate to go there and join the investigation into the illegal affairs of an extended network of opium smugglers. They suspect that the smugglers’ nest is somewhere near Tongling, a village on the Yangtze River. After being processed, the opium is supposedly shipped to the USA, the Philippines, and Australia.
Jamie and Jacko soon learn that post-war China has become a dangerous place because of the major power struggle between the Kuomintang government, the communists, and various warlord bandits. To reach Shanghai, they first fly to Manila, Philippines. Their wives, Carna and Monique, together with Jacko’s half-sister Sarah, remain in Manila with Monique’s parents, Henri and Bella Rousseau. Thinking their families will be safe there, Jamie and Jacko are not aware that the smugglers’ far-stretching operations will also put their close ones in danger. Joined by Harry Williams Jr., chief of the US intelligence agency in Manila, and Lee Drake, an MI6 operative playing the part of a humble tea dealer in Shanghai, Jamie and Jacko can only hope that their mission will be successful.
At 270 pages, the novel never loses its alert tempo. The third-person narrator skillfully weaves the multiple narrative threads into a unitary whole. There are 26 chapters in which the perspective alternatively changes between the good guys and the numerous scoundrels involved in the opium-smuggling operation. The action mostly takes place in Shanghai and along the Yangtze River in China, but it also includes episodes on Samar Island in the Philippines and the Roper region in Australia. Considering the accuracy of the historical details, the author obviously did a lot of research to be able to depict the social, economic, and political relationships in the aftermath of World War II. For the same reason, the book is prefaced by a detailed map of the Yangtze River, a map of the central part of Shanghai in 1946, and a picture of the famous Bund, the Shanghai waterfront area hosting dozens of historical buildings.
What I absolutely loved about Greg Kater’s novel was the exquisite blending of historical realism, exoticism, and elements of cultural specificity. For example, I did not know that Chiang Kai-shek had asked the defeated Japanese to act as policemen in Shanghai until his nationalist forces could take control of the city. Even if the novel is action-packed, the author still finds time to add one historical fact after another. In this way, I learnt that the Astor House Hotel in Shanghai hosted famous figures like Albert Einstein, Charlie Chaplin, and General Ulysses S. Grant. From a different perspective, the river trip on the Yangtze is a great opportunity for vivid images of the magnificent scenery. I was impressed not only by the amazing flora and fauna, but also by the descriptions of beautiful shrines or ancient Buddhist temples.
To support the atmosphere of intrigue and suspense in his espionage novel, Greg Kater needed many characters. His greatest achievement is to have endowed them with unique physical or behavioral features for the readers to easily identify them and keep track of their actions. As expected in such a novel, the male characters are predominant. The villains belong to all walks of life, from the highest echelons of power in Shanghai to foreign agents, boat captains, or mere truck drivers. I wish there were more female figures, like Sarah, Jacko’s half-sister. Due to her remarkable tracking and bushcraft skills, she saves the day when the others seem to run out of options.
Themes such as friendship, patriotism, and the power of self-sacrifice run in parallel with the thirst for power, corruption, or the consequences of war. With a gradually rising tension and a satisfying climax, Conflict on the Yangtzewould be a delight for all fans of historical fiction and espionage thrillers. Those who want to learn more about other cultures could confidently choose this novel too. The savory of some of the dialogues comes precisely from the culture-specific items (see Carna’s Spanish words and phrases, Monique’s French expressions, or Sarah’s broken English). The picturesque descriptions of Shanghai reveal a genuine melting pot. What is more, reading the Manila chapters, you get the chance to discover the local cuisine or customs, such as the Visayan folk dance called Tinikling. Once the action moves to Australia, there are various references to the local myths and superstitions.
Last but not least, the novel benefits from an excellent editing. I could only spot a handful of minor issues consisting of some missing indefinite articles and wrong capitalization. Without a doubt, I am rating this book 4 out of 4 stars. All things considered, I think Greg Kater’s Conflict on the Yangtzeis a great addition to any future reading list.
Kathy Denver, Reviews Editor.
‘Conflict on the Yangtze’ brings back Mr. Kater’s post- World War II swashbucklers Jamie Munro, a former British Army officer, and Jack ‘Jacko’ O’Brien, a half-aborigine and all action op-for-hire. In this adventure, the fourth in Kater’s Warramunga series, it’s 1946. The world is still wrapping up the aftermath of the greatest war humanity has ever seen. It was a time that offered organized crime in the Far East an irresistible opportunity to expand their operations.
When an M16 agent is killed investigating an opium operation in a lawless stretch along the Yangtse, the Brits recruit our heroes to clean up the ring. And so Jamie and Jacko shrug off the resigned protests of their oft-neglected wives. Ignoring the determined protests of Jacko’s half-sister (and full aborigine) Sarah takes somewhat greater effort.
In China Jamie and Jacko quickly learn that while the war against the Japanese Empire may be over, the battle between Chiang Kai Shek’s Kuomintang and the Communists is just heating up. Both sides have allied with local gangs. In order to proceed at all, Jamie and Jacko enlist the aid of M16 operative Lee Drake, a resourceful half-Chinese who managed to ride out the Japanese occupation by posing as a simple tea merchant. With his help, the Aussies team up with American ex-pat Peter Jackson and his armored junk to reach their destination. But even more deadly is the traitor hidden in their ranks.
‘Conflict on the Yangtze’ is well-researched. The writing is clear and uncluttered; the story is told in true British ‘stiff upper lip’ fashion. Fans of post-war China should find it a highly enjoyable read.
General thoughts on the Novel:
Interesting choice of time and place. Appears to be carefully researched.
Goodreads Five Stars
The Coffee Pot Book Club Award
“We’re trying to track down the people behind a major opium-smuggling operation in China…”
Opium is flooding into the USA and Australia. The only way to stop it is to find the source and put the drug cartel out of operation. However, that is easier said than done.
MI6 agent, Commander Daniel Stafford, has been ruthlessly murdered amongst large bulbs of the poppy seed pods in a field in China. With so much money at stake, the cartel will do anything to continue its operations.
MI6 realise that they cannot thwart this operation alone. They approach the Australian Commonwealth Investigation Service (CIS). Jamie Munro and his esteemed colleague, Jack “Jacko” O’Brien from the CIS head to China to help with the investigation and to try to put an end to the cartel.
However, it soon becomes evident that the drug cartel has friends in very high places. Which begs the question, who do you trust when you can’t trust anyone?
From the poppy fields along the Yangtze River in China to the splendour of the Roper River in Australia, Conflict on the Yangtze, by Greg Kater is the truly gripping account of an opium cartel and those who are determined to stop it.
I was delighted when I discovered that there was a sequel to The Warramunga Trilogy. Having thoroughly enjoyed the first three books I could not wait to reacquaint myself with Jamie and Jacko. I was hoping for another fabulous adventure, and I am pleased to say that Kater did not disappoint.
As with all the books in this series, Kater has an eye for what is entertaining which is then backed up by confident historical research. He has painted a dazzling portrait of not only the dangers along the Yangtze River but also the instability in China during this era. The corruption and the struggle for power are all touched upon within the pages of this remarkable book.
As before, I adored the characterisation of Jamie and Jacko. Both are worthy protagonists in this tale, and more importantly, they are especially likeable ones. They are two very different people, but they work so well together — although there was one terrible moment when I feared that the duo might have run out of luck! A special mention must also go to Jacko’s sister Sarah. Sarah is intelligent, witty and courageous. Her character really helped to drive this story forward.
There are several antagonists in this book, all of whom were fabulously portrayed. Through Kater’s compelling narrative we are offered a glimpse into both worlds — so we see first-hand what the antagonists’ plans are. Unlike the CIS, MI6, and their colleagues, the drug cartel is just as likely to turn on their own men as to plot to murder those who are trying to stop their vile deeds. I thought showing both sides of the story gives the reader a clear understanding of what Jamie and Jacko are up against. It also made this novel next to impossible to put down.
Although this is the fourth book in an incredibly gripping series, Conflict on the Yangtze works very well as a standalone. However, to get the most out of this series, I do suggest you start with book 1 — The Warramunga’s War. You won’t be disappointed.
I Highly Recommend.
Kater (Skills of the Warramunga, 2018, etc.) pits his Australian investigators against a Chinese opium cartel in this fourth entry in his historical espionage series.
In 1946, when an MI6 agent is shot in a poppy field in China and then vanishes, British Col. John Cook asks the two best agents of the Commonwealth Investigation Service’s Australian branch—Jamie Munro and Jack “Jacko” O’Brien—to find the missing operative and destroy an opium processing plant. According to MI6, the drugs are being transported down the Yangtze River and later sent “to the USA, the Philippines and Australia.” Munro and O’Brien are dispatched to Manila, where they meet up with an old ally, American Office of Strategic Services chief Harry Williams. They travel to Shanghai, where they meet Lee Drake, an MI6 agent who served in China and was the only witness to the missing agent’s shooting. Postwar China is hardly at peace, as the embattled forces of Chiang Kai-shek vie with the rebellious soldiers of the Chinese Communist Party; in addition, government-empowered smugglers and localized criminal gangs run amok. The CIS agents must travel up the Yangtze River in a small boat and sail deep into unfriendly territory, and what they find will lead them unexpectedly back home.
Throughout this installment, Kater’s prose evokes the story’s time and place with specificity and color: “Red Brandon had desperately continued his search for the hatless man in a GI uniform whom he had first sighted in company with Roddy’s dog, Zhiming. He was accompanied by eight of the Chinese militia, only known to him as the Black Minbing.” The author once again proves to be adept at using his characters’ adventures to explore the minutiae of various countries in Asia and Oceania after World War II. The novel’s particular brand of Anglophilic nostalgia will not be every reader’s cup of tea, but those who enjoyed the previous books in the series will surely appreciate this newest one.