Don't be deceived by the blockbuster size of W.E.B. Griffin's third installment in the Honor Bound series. Secret Honor
is an intricate book that reveals a remarkable attentiveness to historical detail and characterization. It is also a top-notch thriller set in Griffin's quasi-fictional version of WWII.
The plot is woven with so many threads, all of them worthwhile, that it actually feels more like a chronicle than a novel, but the central story takes up the continuing adventures of OSS agent Cletus Frade. Frade, a U.S. Marine whose father was almost the president of Argentina, was raised in Texas and now uses his father's special status in Argentine society to penetrate Nazi plans for South America. This time, however, Frade is not so much fighting the Nazis as supporting them. While one group, Himmler among them, is secretly stashing funds in Argentina to prepare for an escape when the Reich finally crumbles, a second group, including a German general and his son, are actually plotting to assassinate Hitler. Meanwhile, the OSS is on the verge of ex-communicating Frade, given his unwillingness to reveal the identity of the son, code-named "Galahad."
The details are what make this book: Cletus Frade is imprinted on the mind, clad in grease-stained khaki trousers, spouting Spanish-Texan four-letter epithets, and sporting cowboy boots as he repairs his father's ravaged old Horch touring sedan at Estancia San Pedro y San Pablo. Particularly engaging is Griffin's account of Argentine upper-strata social "politics," as Father Welner steers Cletus into his inevitable marriage. Reading Secret Honor, one enters many vividly drawn places--from Nazi secret meetings to Argentine estates--that bring this pivotal era to life. Finishing the book leaves one feeling a rare combination of sadness in leaving close colleagues behind and exhilaration at having witnessed history being made. --Patrick O'Kelley
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From Publishers Weekly
This third entry in the military/espionage Honor Bound series, focusing on the Argentine-German connection during WWII, will intrigue newcomers and have Griffin's long-time fans queuing up for the next installment. In 1943, the Nazi-ordered assassination of Jorge Frade, the anti-Axis president of Argentina, has left the country in a tense mood, which is exacerbated by the murder of two Nazi officers during a night beach landing, part of the top-secret Nazi Operation Phoenix. The aborted mission was crucial to a plan to free the Argentine-interned crew of the Nazi ship Graf Spee, but it turns out that the slain officers had also extorted ransom money from Jews in concentration camps and arranged for their passage to Argentina--without the Reich's knowledge. Cletus Frade, the 24-year-old American-reared son of the slain president, has returned to Argentina as heir to his father's vast estates and financial holdings. But Cletus is also an OSS (CIA precursor) agent, and a chance meeting with Major Hans-Peter von Wachstein, a Nazi pilot attached to the German embassy, results in their friendship. Peter feeds secrets to Cletus in exchange for help in moving Peter's family's funds to Argentina, where they hope to live after the war that he and his father (a close aide to the Fuhrer) believe is wrong and already lost. When Himmler launches an investigation to find the embassy spy who scuttled Operation Phoenix, Cletus struggles to protect Peter's identity and deal with the rising power of pro-Axis Juan Peron. Griffin adroitly shifts among German, American and Argentinian cultural milieux and fills the plot with believable romance, intrigue and diplomatic fencing, while capturing the horrors of war and the crucial role of intelligence agents. He nicely explains the Reich's need for Argentina as safe harbor to replenish its U-boats and to stash funds for postwar Nazi emigration. What will happen to the SS, Cletus and the surviving cast promises an equally exciting sequel. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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