Recently, I read Showdown by Patricia Potter from the In Our Dreams anthology and absolutely loved it. Therefore I was looking forward to reviewing Potter’s latest tale, Broken Honor. While I liked the story, I felt it was just missing a few things that would have made it perfect.
At the end of World War II, a Nazi train containing the personal belongings and wealth of imprisoned Jews was captured by American troops. The men in charge were General Sam Flaherty, General David Mallory, and Colonel Edward Eachan. Each officer took one or two things from the train to adorn their offices, as was the custom, with the intention of returning them before they went Stateside. Unfortunately the items went missing, and over half a century later a commission has been appointed to determine whether the men committed theft.
Despite the fact all three men are dead, there are repercussions for their grandchildren: Lt. Col. Lucien “Irish” Flaherty, Amy Mallory, and Dustin and Sally Eachan.
Irish, a member of the U.S. Army’s CID (according to our research, because nowhere is a definition for it to be found in the book, CID is the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, responsible for the conduct of criminal investigations in which the Army is, or may be, a party of interest), is on leave after returning from duty overseas and decides to follow-up on the commission’s investigation. He knows his grandfather was no thief. First Irish goes to Memphis to meet with Amy Mallory. Amy is a history professor at a small college, who has undergone a rare streak of bad luck: her house has burned to the ground, her mentor and friend was killed in a hit and run accident, and she was shot by a burglar while trying to retrieve a box of her grandfather’s WWII papers from her late co-worker’s office.
Amy is naturally wary of Irish, who coincidentally shows up just as her life seems to be falling apart, but fortunately Irish sticks by her and saves her life twice. They both realize the attacks must have something to do with information Amy’s grandfather may have left behind, but find nothing in the box of WWII notes. So they head to Washington, D.C., where Dustin Eachan and his cousin Sally work for the State Department. Dustin has a high-ranking job that could be compromised if his family name is tarnished in any way, and he initially tries to stop Irish and Amy from digging around. But when his cousin Sally’s house is searched and she’s nearly abducted from a bar, Dustin decides it’d be wise to cooperate. Now the four of them are in a race against the clock to discover the truth before someone succeeds in silencing them.
Amy and Irish are the main focus of the story. Their relationship is a tale of opposites that attract. Irish is third-generation career military, while Amy, the daughter of a pacifist and flower child, has spent her career researching the anti-war movement and protest causes. Both are likable people, but their relationship seems more a case of lust than love, especially on Irish’s part. Irish did a thorough background search on Amy before they ever met, and spends a lot of time discussing her past with her when they do. Nevertheless he doesn’t trust her with his secrets – or more accurately, she doesn’t ask. Each time Irish’s past is brought up, Amy notices he’s uncomfortable discussing himself and changes the subject, leaving the reader hanging. Even Irish’s internal monologues are closed to the reader and make abrupt changes, so we never learn what makes him tick or why he loves Amy.
Much more interesting was the forbidden love story between first cousins Dustin and Sally. The two have fought their feelings their entire lives because it would cause a scandal and ruin Dustin’s career. Dustin appears cold and career driven to the entire world except Sally, whom he protects and cares for. He is the only steady thing in Sally’s life of ever-changing jobs and disastrous relationships. Their love is much more believable and emotional than anything between Irish and Amy.
While I enjoyed the mystery, towards the end I felt the story dragged on too long. The characters seemed to be running in circles to maintain the atmosphere of impeding doom. For a military investigator, Irish has an amazing lack of concern for rules. I was pleased that Potter showed that Irish’s constant disobeying of orders has consequences for his career.
Overall I enjoyed the pace of the story and the characters, but by the end my suspension of disbelief was being stretched to its limits and I was very frustrated by a lack of follow-through on hints about Irish’s past. So I can only offer a qualified recommendation to Broken Honor, especially because I know Potter can do better.