||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