Skip to main content

The Assassination Option: A Clandestine Operations Novel


The Assassination Option: A Clandestine Operations Novel

W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV introduce their second novel in the Clandestine Operations series with a robust beginning. The action takes place at the end of World War II in the American zone of Occupied Germany. True to Griffin’s style, an italicized prologue identifies the climate and staging on which the story will commence.

General Patton has recently died in a smash-up, considered suspicious by some in the military but concluded to be a freak accident. Before his death, he had been privy to knowledge that Russian NKVD agents had taken captured Polish officers to the Katyn Forest, executed them and buried them in a mass grave. The German Major General Reinhard Gehlen, chief intelligence officer then working with the Russians, had proof of the massacre. Allen Dulles, the American station chief of the OSS in Switzerland, made a deal with Gehlen, who would turn over his assets and his agents in the Kremlin for the OSS’s protection from the Red Army. 

Gehlen and his subordinates conveniently disappear prior to the Nuremberg trials. In the United States, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover now seeks to uncover any and all operations not sanctioned by his authority, including OSS activities. The OSS is dismantled, but President Truman believes in the need for an agency to handle international covert operations, thus the CIA. The new agency head will answer only to the President. In the matter of the missing German Major, a delicate problem exists. One of his agent’s families is detained by the Russians and must be reunited with him in Argentina. If a covert operation does not succeed, the new CID-Europe will be thrown to the wolves, disgraced by a zealous Hoover and company.

"THE ASSASSINATION OPTION remains true to its title to the end. It reads well and reminds us of the difficulty posed in intelligence work, especially at the beginning of the Cold War with Russia."

Two pages of tribute precede the story in honor of the real military and CIA personnel who entered harm’s way in clandestine activities for their country. Different names and faces play out the series of events in THE ASSASSINATION OPTION, but their patriotism is real. In style, the authors utilize characteristic grayed and blocked writings to denote top secret presidential communications to and from the agency and the White House.

Rear Admiral Sidney W. Souers, USN, visits Major Maxwell Ashton III, Cavalry, in a military  hospital to inform him that Lt. James Cronley and Sgt. “Tiny” Dunwiddie have been promoted to the rank of Captain. Both serve with distinction in the discovery and elimination of a husband/wife traitor duo. Cronley is appointed Chief, DCI-Europe, with Dunwiddie as his second in command. They assemble a trusted group of officers, including at the Kloster Grünau compound in the American zone of Bavaria. The complex, tight with security and now called the South German Industrial Development Compound, houses Gehlen and his men, former German intelligence officers. The officers wear civilian clothing but assume military colors when necessary.

Cronley becomes well aware of his tenuous leadership capacity when confronted by a jealous American, Col. Mattingly, who hopes he will fail. American military politics and procedures often thwart Cronley’s daring plans more than aid them. Therefore, he acts slightly outside usual protocols. He realizes that things could backfire and sink his commission at any time; he could be the whipping boy for the entire DCI-Europe project. 

Along with Gehlen and his operatives, Cronley’s chief task is to make contact with a “turned” Russian agent K-7, extract a German officer’s wife and two sons from the Russian zone in Germany, and transport them to Argentina to reunite with the officer. To keep his activity secret becomes his greatest challenge. Cronley finds that he will need all the help he can get from “friendly” faces in the military, including Tiny’s godfather, General White. 

Cronley plunges forward to his goal, heedless of the personal cost. He questions himself about the source of numerous plans he puts forward to his group. If and when these ideas produce results remains the suspenseful moments of the story. A recent widower, explained by references to his prior life, Cronley does develop a liaison with a female operative, to keep readers interested in his private life. He must answer to Major Ashton and General Souers, and manages to accommodate them all while keeping distance from Col. Mattingly.

THE ASSASSINATION OPTION remains true to its title to the end. It reads well and reminds us of the difficulty posed in intelligence work, especially at the beginning of the Cold War with Russia.

Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on February 6, 2015

The Assassination Option: A Clandestine Operations Novel
by W. E. B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV