Griffin (The Hunters, 2007, etc.), with Butterworth, continues his Men at War World War II spy series, sending proto-CIA agent Major Richard Canidy to check on Nazi supplies of nerve gas secreted in Sicily.
As we know now, there was no limit to Nazi perfidy, but Canidy and his O.S.S. bosses are shocked to discover evidence of chemical and biological weapons on the weakening Axis stronghold of Sicily. Good-guy saboteurs did their best to blow up a ship full of nerve gas and a palazzo loaded with germs, but Canidy needs to go back to the island to double check on the job. If the gas went off in the explosion, there will be corpses clogging the streets, making it necessary for President Roosevelt to react. Before Canidy can return to Sicily, he has to involve himself in the O.S.S. training effort in Algeria, selecting a team from Italian-American student agents whose loyalty, given the possibility of Mafia ties, cannot be guaranteed. Real-life film stars Peter Ustinov and David Niven, with author Ian Fleming, turn up in a secondary plot taking quite as much time as the nerve gas business. The stellar trio expend much energy on the creation of a backstory for a corpse the Brits have frozen and plan to use in an elaborate ruse to make the Axis powers believe that the Allies will invade the Balkans instead of Sicily. The boys toss off Griffin’s idea of bons mots, thrilling Philadelphia debutante Charity Hoche, a mid-level character who starts to hog the stage, and who at one point has a confusing run-in with the metric system a generation before it was adopted in the U.K.
Heavy-handed writing manages to make David Niven sound like a bore in this undistinguished addition to the series.