One would expect that the third book in a World War I novel series would require prior familiarity with characters and setting. But, then, that same newcomer to James Hockenberry’s work will also be surprised at the blend of history and intrigue that sets this book apart from most World War I scenarios, requiring no prior familiarity with its predecessors in order to prove accessible.
The blend of intrigue, suspense, and World War I events is taut and attractive. A rather long list of characters at the beginning helps newcomers understand that this novel will be wide-ranging both in its viewpoints and its international scope. It is followed by a section of historical background that will delight readers of nonfiction who want to understand both the milieu and premise of the novel and also serves to introduce the reader to the coming narrative.
Chapter 1 opens with ‘The Last Day’ and is set in France in 1918, where Captain Gilbert Martin and the Kellers (heroes of the first two books, Over Here and Send the Word) return to the limelight.
A threat to the signing of the Versailles peace treaty emerges to threaten catastrophe unless the military intelligence officers can thwart a dangerous plot.
A series of cat-and-mouse encounters based on lesser-known World War I real events and people keeps the story fast-paced and readers on their toes. Even those versed in history will find many of the intelligence and historical insights riveting and unexpected.
From links between chess moves and encryption puzzles to political deals and schemes that determine the fate of nations and their connections to one another, Hockenberry provides a seamless intersection between history and fiction that keeps his story action-packed, believable, and hard to put down.
Readers should ideally be attracted to historical backdrops surrounding World War I, while also satisfied with fictional intrigue and action that bring these situations to life. There are many passages of historical insight that reflect not just the usual physical battles, but behind-the-scenes maneuvering and special interests that result in political alliances and agreements: “The Allies would promise to remove their entire forces from Russia and end the blockade. They would also stop all financial and military aid to the White Russians and would guarantee the White Russians would accept the conditions. Lenin gave the Allies one month to accept the deal. Bullitt ended by saying, ‘These are excellent terms. Better than we could have hoped for.'”
Through the lens of accusations, confrontations, and agreements, fragments of a puzzle “click into place” as readers follow the intelligence leaders in a desperate struggle to prevent calamity. The drama and complexities of the Peace Conference jump off the pages, culminating in the electrifying moment when German delegates are invited to receive the punishing terms.
James Hockenberry’s story will reach even those who enjoy thrillers but have little World War I interest. Its vivid blend of action, drama, and political intrigue will keep audiences on edge and wondering about outcomes, especially with the twists and turns that keep intrigue high and results unpredictable.
Any historical fiction collection looking for more than battle stories alone will find So Beware a fitting, complex, appealing addition.

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