Skip to main content

Curtain of Death: A Clandestine Operations Novel


Curtain of Death: A Clandestine Operations Novel

CURTAIN OF DEATH, W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV’s latest Clandestine Operations thriller, is built on the premise of deep mistrust. In 1946, the occupation of Germany by the Allied Forces (Russia, Great Britain and the United States) is a precarious one at best. President Truman has commissioned a special unit, DCI-Europe, to collaborate with former German officers to establish in their ranks those who would work with the Americans in the peace process. Some turncoats receive passage to South America for their families.

A “still wet-behind-the-ears” young second lieutenant from Midland, Texas catches Truman’s attention because of his heroism earlier in the war. James D. Cronley, Jr. is named Chief of DCI-Europe and is promoted to the rank of Captain. In theory, Cronley operates under Rear Admiral Sidney Souers, an official backup for his DCI. Intelligence is the dangerous game that Cronley plays, alongside former German officers, against the Soviet NKGB, the brutal and secret Russian intelligence arm of government.

The action begins in the American Occupied Zone of Munich, Germany at the site of a WAC non-commissioned officers club. Two army nurses walk across the parking lot toward two parked ambulances in the corner. The 35-year-old nurse climbs into the driver’s seat of the 711th MKRC vehicle. The younger woman, her only insignia a triangle shape on her sleeve, steps up to slide into the passenger seat when she is grabbed violently from behind. A second man pulls her friend from the driver’s seat; both are threatened with knives to their throats. They are hauled into the second ambulance, where a knife is held against the nurse’s neck while her passenger is forced, stomach down, onto the cot in the middle of the back compartment.

"The father-and-son writing team of Griffin and Butterworth develops their story boldly. For fans of both authors, CURTAIN OF DEATH entertains, providing diplomacy, intrigue and adventure."

The ambulance rolls forward and then speeds up. Lying on the cot, Claudette Colbert slyly reaches into her bodice, feeling the cold metal of a pistol stuck inside her brassiere. In a swift movement, she rolls aside, shooting while she turns and killing both men. When the driver and his male counterpart in the passenger seat peek through the curtain at the commotion, Claudette fires her last two bullets, not certain if either reached a target. The ambulance careens from the road, crashing into a solid object.

The scene shifts to a hotel where Army MP Augie Ziegler is confronted by a German-speaking uniformed officer from the CIC. Ziegler says, “Sorry to bother you at this hour, Sir.  Does the name Claudette Colbert mean anything to you?” He investigates the shooting, following Hessinger to an office where the man contacts his boss, the aforementioned James Cronley. Many questions later, Cronley makes Ziegler a part of his team.

Both women recover in the army base hospital. Florence, the nurse, is shaken up and is treated for hysterics, but Claudette recovers from surface scratches and coolly recounts her story. Four dead Russian KGB agents are the spoils of her effort. Claudette is a civilian employee of the DCI unit, a counterintelligence officer. Cronley must determine responsibility for the attempted kidnappings. He holds a card to play with the Russians. The Russian sitting next to the driver has been wounded but not killed. He’s taken to a cell where DCI operates, in a former monastery, heavily walled and guarded.

Jealousy runs rampant within the military ranks about Cronley’s rapid rise to his high leadership position. He makes quick decisions, most of which are challenged and questioned by seasoned regular officers. When the President had decommissioned the OSS and replaced it with DCI-Europe, he opened a can of proverbial worms in military hierarchy. At times, Cronley questions his own integrity and ability. But he plows ahead, with the aid of a former SS German officer who has background intelligence necessary to their mission.

Cronley’s ultimate test of authority comes when the Russians kidnap and hold Colonel Mattingly, Cronley’s most ardent detractor. Tasked to secure his release, Cronley faces both a moral and military quandary. His future is in constant turmoil. Ultimately, it boils down to military protocol vs. ingenuity entanglement.

The father-and-son writing team of Griffin and Butterworth develops their story boldly. For fans of both authors, CURTAIN OF DEATH entertains, providing diplomacy, intrigue and adventure.

Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on January 13, 2017

Curtain of Death: A Clandestine Operations Novel
by W. E. B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV