THE HONOR OF SPIES, the fifth book in the Honor Bound series, tells the fascinating story of espionage activities of German military officers in Argentina during World War II. A part-time resident of Argentina, W. E. B. Griffin puts his knowledge of its land, cities and political history to good use, creating a scenario that could well have happened in the latter months of the war.
Co-authored with his son, William E. Butterworth IV, this new spy novel centers on the personal and professional lives of 24-year-old Cletus Frade, a man with dual citizenship in Argentina and the United States. Frade’s mother, an American, married an Argentine against her father’s wishes. A U.S. Marine Corps major who works in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and is head of their operations in Argentina, Frade discovers a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler. Using the code name “Valkyrie,” the men involved plan financing through a secondary source: the plight of Jews. Jewish family members pay to secrete their loved ones out of Germany, far from the death camps, and into Argentina. Ransoms collected from them will pay for German officers to bring their own families to South America after war’s end. It gets sticky for Frade when a German prisoner of war, interned in Mississippi, is smuggled into Argentina.
Lt. Frau Frogger’s parents, former German diplomats, have turned against Hitler and are part of the Valkyrie operation. OSS operatives suspect them of espionage and pursue them, learning of their hideout on a hacienda on Frade’s vast estates. Frade now becomes aware of the Froggers’ involvement and of secret caches of money and jewels coming into Argentina via the Germans. Frogger, who has misgivings about turning into a traitor, becomes hysterical and is forcefully detained.
Complications occur when Frade discovers that his godfather, Colonel Juan Peron, is aware of the monetary shipments being smuggled into the country. Known as a Nazi sympathizer, Peron was nonetheless a true friend of Frade’s father. The senior Frade, widely held to be the next president of Argentina, has been assassinated by persons unknown, making the junior Frade heir to vast land holdings. Frade privately feels that the Germans are responsible for his father’s death. Now his wife, Dona Dorotea, will soon give birth to a son of their own.
Frade’s friends include a feisty Roman Catholic priest, Father Welner, who holds his own with Frade in tasting the fine wines produced on the Frade estates. The secretive priest appears when least expected, especially when local Argentine officials confide about matters of German espionage. The German infiltrators are overwhelmed with distrust in their own ranks. Loyalties to the Third Reich dissolve quickly when individuals plan to save their own skins. A chief instigator is SS-Brigadefuhrer Manfred von Deitzberg, sent via U-boat by OSS officer Himmler to eliminate the Froggers, locate and secure the special funds reserve, and destroy the new Constellation aircraft now owned by Frade and his company, Argentine Airways. Through contacts in the local government, Frade learns of Deitzberg’s deviant activity and must terminate the man and his plans.
Griffin and Butterworth give us details from actual history, and the novel becomes more important than a simple wartime story. Cletus Frade may well have been a Marine officer living in Argentina. Various references from history give accurate details of both the Valkyrie and Operation Phoenix. But THE HONOR OF SPIES is a fictional panorama that makes for a truly entertaining adventure. It is far more exciting to picture the dashing young Cletus Frade in action than to read didactic facts from a history book. THE HONOR OF SPIES barely introduces Eva Peron; perhaps she’ll factor into future Honor Bound novels.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on January 22, 2011