The Assassin’s Honor

Written by Robert N. Macomber
Review by G. J. Berger

Heading into the holiday season of 1892, USN Commander Peter Wake is looking forward to weeks of easy exercises for his top-of-the-line cruiser, Bennington, and for him to pursue his new lady love. Wake’s superior, Admiral Walker, has other plans. The Admiral makes the Bennington hasten 700 miles to Key West for further instructions. There the Admiral orders Wake to solve a recent passenger ship murder of an American citizen. The dead man’s cabin holds clues about a larger crisis: the planned assassination of a local leader and the crushing of indigenous unrest so that Germany and Spain might gain stronger economic holds on Central America.

Wake and his crew race to warn the assassin’s target. They must overcome bad weather, serious misdirection, an insubordinate first officer, ship boilers threatening to explode, tricky waterways, and two other ships (one German, one Spanish) bent on assuring the success of the planned assassination.

Macomber’s portrayals of ships and seamanship, the locales, and many interesting multi-national characters are first-rate and accurate. Interactions with the arrogant first officer, Nathan Gardiner, who must be dealt with again and again, ring true and end hilariously.

The would-be assassin’s reveal comes out of nowhere, and the American passenger’s death remains shadowy. But, as Macomber explains in helpful endnotes, the actual identity of the would-be assassin and related circumstances are murky to this day. Unfortunately, the novel is sprinkled with distractions. The typesetting, punctuation, and spelling contain a fair number of errors (e.g., the wrong title sits at the top of every right-hand page). The writing is sometimes too wordy and repetitive, but “Wakian” fans will still enjoy this twelfth novel in the series.