Aussie Book Review: The Great Deception by Joy Chambers #aww2012

The Great Deception The Great Deception by Joy Chambers


 Review copy provided by publisher

 Headline (Hachette), October 2012

 Synopsis- A sweeping epic tale of courage, drama and passion, looking at the experiences of Australians in World War Two.

New South Wales, 1947: When Shelly Wareing’s husband Cole vanishes into the night, leaving only a note to say that he will come back no matter how long it takes, Shelly is bewildered. What could be the reason for his sudden disappearance? Searching for clues, Shelly discovers a box containing Nazi medals, an SS ring and a photo of a radiantly beautiful woman signed for her husband. Determined to uncover the truth, she sets out to track down Laetitia de Witt, the woman pictured in the photograph. Meanwhile, halfway across the world, Cole is on his own mission for the truth – while his enemies, who believe him to be a traitor, are in close pursuit..

 Review-  The Great Deception is a historical fiction novel that explores Cole Wareing’s experience as an Australian undercover agent during World War II. I’d like to start by saying there’s a lot about this book I really loved and there’s some aspects that just didn’t work for me.

The Great Deception is divided into three parts across two time periods. Part one introduces the couple, Shelly and Cole who have been married for nearly two years and reside on an isolated farm in the NSW Southern Highlands. It’s 1947, two years since the end of World War II and the couple have had a comfortable marriage and lifestyle following the return of Cole’s stint in the war. They rarely talk about his experience of the war, so it comes as quite a shock to Shelly when one of Cole’s former friends unexpectedly appears at the farm in search of Cole. That evening, Cole disappears into the night leaving behind an ambiguous letter and a wife who is utterly confused. When she discovers a photograph of a beautiful woman named Laetitia de Witt among Cole’s belongings, she travels to Europe on a whim to find answers to his past.

At over 300 pages, part two of the story covers a bulk of the novel and is set during 1943 during World War II. It delves into Cole’s role as an undercover agent for the British Government and how he secretly replaces (following an assassination) a prominent figure within the Hitler following. During this escapade he must completely become Lucien Bayer including speaking German, developing a limp, facial scarring and imitate a Hitler devotee. During his escapades he falls in love with a young Dutch woman named Laetitia de Witt which becomes both intense and dangerous. During the mission, Cole’s colleagues become captured and believe he was responsible. This is what lead them to hunt down Cole in 1947. Part three brings the story to a conclusion, where the truth of the past is revealed and Cole is reunited with Shelly in 1947 in Europe.

Though I really liked reading about Cole’s undercover mission and I found this quite fascinating. I felt a little torn reading about Cole’s affair with a woman (even though it was prior to his marriage) while Shelly was waiting for him during the war. There was a lot of well-researched historical information during the second part of the book and I thought the role he played was quite interesting.

What didn’t I like about the book? Firstly, the synopsis led me to believe this story would be set predominantly in Australia and that Shelly and her husband Cole would be the two protagonists. However, after I finished reading part one (a little over 100 pages) and moved onto part two of the novel, I realised this wasn’t to be the case after all. In that respect, I felt a little deceived (ironic considering the title of the book) because the story was not what I had expected.

I didn’t like that we were introduced to Shelly and Cole in the present day (1947) in the first 100 pages and then the next 3/5 of the book is solely focused on Cole’s mission and affair back in 1943. Then the last 100 pages are back in the present moment where Cole and Shelly reunite. I feel this book would have been better structured (in my opinion) by interspersing the present and past throughout the novel rather than separating it into big chunks. I’d also prefer to not have really known much about Shelly and have her in the background right from the beginning. Her early introduction as an important person in Cole’s life really set the foundation for me to want to read more about them- but this wasn’t the case.

Despite my qualms about The Great Deception, I did quite enjoy it and finished it relatively quickly considering it’s a lengthy novel. Putting aside the issues about the structure, the actual storyline and plot was quite interesting and I liked undercover agent aspect of the war that is portrayed in this well-researched novel.

Overall Rating



“I really liked this”

The Great Deception can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

About the author: Joy Chambers is a company chairman, business woman, and actor who has been writing for over twenty years. A lover of history and never idle she sets her books in the past and enjoys the extensive research. Born in Ipswich Queensland Australia, Joy is married to media mogul, Reg Grundy and they share their home with their Shetland sheepdogs.

This book was read as part of the AWW2012 challenge:

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