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Book Review: The Traitor’s Emblem by Juan Gomez-Jurado

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In The Traitor’s Emblem, a young man spends his adolescence and early manhood seeking the truth about his father, who allegedly died in a heroic maritime incident towards the end of World War I. Penniless now, Paul and his mother live as servants in the home of Baron von Schroeder, Paul’s uncle. Paul’s wealthy cousin, whose noble inheritance places him in a caste above Paul, is a constant annoyance. As the youths grow up together, Paul attempts to remain at a distance from his cousin’s ever-increasing, embarrassing, painful, and murderous torments.

As he matures Paul falls in love with a woman who has escaped her boring noble background to exploit a career as a master photographer. In a way, both she and Paul share the same dilemma — both must accept the hard life of commoners. Yet both struggle with feeling they are worth far more.

Paul uncovers the fact that his father is still alive during the time when Hitler is murdering his way to power in Germany. Disbelieving family hearsay, Paul attempts to locate his father. He must find out why the man is hiding at a time when heroic acts should bring him notability and a new command in Germany.

Paul travels to Africa, where his father was last seen, to find that the man was not only a lout, but a mass killer of Africans. In contrast to stories about heroics, Paul finds that his father has been a family disgrace but is alive — he had betrayed a naval command and had stolen a horde of uncut diamonds and hidden them from local Africans who had mistaken them for mere unpolished rocks. On one of his trips back home, Paul’s father is killed. Now Paul is determined more than ever to uproot his father’s true identity and confront his murderer.

All of these jagged ends eventually slice together in The Traitor’s Emblem. Paul must face a life-death struggle with his hateful cousin who is determined to kill him. Paul must confront his father’s killer, a scene in which he learns the true but devastating account of his own paternal heritage. Paul must rescue his beautiful, nubile, beloved photographer who is taken prisoner and confined for the raping pleasure of the German Gestapo.

How all these elements clash together I will leave to the reader. Suffice it to say that The Traitor’s Emblem is a fascinating book. It is easy to read and its twisted story will keep you spellbound. However, granted that the book is a suspense thriller, I found its story a bit over the top. It is one thing to read all the exciting actions in the story because they stir your imagination. It is yet another thing to think them plausible.

The first two thirds of The Traitor’s Emblem seem very reasonable but something happens to the last part. In Act Three, there are just too many scenes of what appeared to me to be superhuman incidents of love, honor, deception, and vengeance. For example, in order to rescue his beloved, and because he looks so much like his sadistic cousin who is now a Baron in the Gestapo, with help, Paul uses a sharp-edged spoon to gouge out one of his eyes “by the roots” so he can wear an eye patch in order to infiltrate the SS and escape with his love. After knifing his cousin during a vicious fight, he must be missing an eye in order to assume his cousin’s identity before the SS.

In the end, I think the escape of Paul and his family from what would seem inevitable capture needed a bit more of an explanation. All in all, I would recommend the book to those who, like me, enjoy suspense thrillers. But unlike me, readers must be willing to sacrifice a sense of authenticity for catastrophic action-packed suspense and a bit of horror right to the very end.

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