EMPIRE AND HONOR, a compelling addition to W. E. B. Griffin’s Honor Bound series, begins in October 1945, shortly after the formal ceremony aboard the USS Missouri that officially ends World War II.
Like the preceding books in the series, the setting is primarily in Argentina, with the now-defunct OSS operating in clandestine form. German U-boats have penetrated the Argentine coast in the San Marin Gulf, unloading a cache of money, jewelry, and German citizens, many of whom are former SS officers now wanted by international tribunals for trial as war criminals. Two such boats land in the gulf loaded with heavy wooden crates. Captain von Dattenberg of the U-405 has been ordered to scuttle his boat, but surrenders his craft and crew after off-loading the cargo to Heinrich Himmler’s SS guard.
"EMPIRE AND HONOR contains more personal anecdotes that link characters through their past histories than the previous books in the Honor Bound series, as well as more sexual intimacies --- the prose is slightly racy but not pornographic."
In the meantime, Clete Frade, a decorated American Marine Officer, is the Argentine commander of the formally defunct OSS operation. Clete’s mission is to relocate certain former German officers to give up information about Germany’s war secrets. These defectors will cooperate with the Americans to keep information from the Russian occupiers of Germany. The United States and Russia have entered the period later to be known as the Cold War.
Jimmy Conley, Clete’s boyhood compatriot who speaks fluent German, is seen both as a young Army Lieutenant and as a 14-year-old Texas youngster ready to follow his older friend regardless of personal cost. He matures within the pages, establishing his worth in the complicated scheme of events. Clete’s entire group works under the radar to separate the “good” former SS military men from their “bad” officers, who desire to remain undercover long enough to stir up support for a new Socialist order in South America. In the mix is Juan Peron, Labor Minister and Vice-President of Argentina, who has long sympathized with the Hitler regime. Peron is Clete’s godfather, but the two have a tenuous relationship.
The meat of the plot revolves around Heinrich Himmler’s former SS officers unloading weapons-grade uranium powder from their U-boats on Argentine shores. Knowledge that a Russian contact is willing to purchase the powder gives Clete’s group impetus to locate and confiscate the cache. As a bona fide American military officer, Jimmy has the status to act for them without compromising activities with the “good” Germans.
Griffin and co-author William E. Butterworth IV weave the large cast of characters skillfully throughout the novel. EMPIRE AND HONOR contains more personal anecdotes that link characters through their past histories than the previous books in the Honor Bound series, as well as more sexual intimacies --- the prose is slightly racy but not pornographic. And the tidbits about Juan Peron enhance its historical value. I highly recommend this action-packed book.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on January 4, 2013