American naval intelligence officer Peter Wake embarks on a secret mission to Cuba to rescue two members of his network of operatives, captured and held in a Spanish dungeon. Complicating matters, his nemesis in Spanish counterintelligence is in Havana and has a pretty good idea what Wake is up to. But the American has allies, a team of local agents he calls “Los Aficionados” and his delightfully lethal sidekick, an Irishman called Rork with a marlinspike in place of a hand and wits equally sharp.
The details of life in Havana under Spanish rule in 1888 are well-drawn, and Wake’s foes are believable and competent. Unfortunately “Los Aficionados” seem incomplete as characters — there are simply too many of them to keep track of except by specialty (locksmith, explosives man, etc.), and Lt. Commander Wake is not the sort of narrator to spend extra words on backstory. The author’s choice to present the novel in first person is an interesting one: apparently Macomber wrote the first several books of the “Honor” series in third person before switching to the device of “memoirs found in a trunk.” This gives us a detached, calmly competent delivery in the best tradition of the American professional warrior. It works just fine when Wake describes a fight or a chase — which is, to be fair, most of the book — but all else comes through colorlessly, a matter-of-fact recounting by a man who doesn’t realize he’s supposed to be narrating a novel.