Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

It’s no secret that Japanese spies worked in Hawaii in the years before Pearl Harbor, but there was also a Japanese American agent working to foil them. Screen actor Harmon and NCIS technical adviser Carroll try their hand at history, and it’s mostly a success—at least for readers who can acclimate to present-tense narration and occasionally overheated prose. As relations with Japan deteriorated during the 1930s, intelligence services worried about the loyalty of Hawaii’s largest minority, Japanese Americans, although local officials found little disturbing evidence. The reality was that local Japanese officials were gathering information on island defenses, and in 1940, Japan sent an agent, Takeo Yoshikawa, to work at it full-time in the consulate. Counterespionage in Hawaii was the responsibility of local police and several government agencies, but the authors focus on the Office of Naval Intelligence and its first Japanese American agent, Douglas Wada, hired in 1937. Wada spent most of his time translating and interpreting, but he also kept an eye out for suspicious activities. In the first half of the book, Yoshikawa spies while Wada goes about his business. After the attack, Japanese diplomats, including Yoshikawa, were arrested and later exchanged. Hawaiian intelligence services were on the alert, although little of consequence turned up. In what is now agreed to be a disgraceful episode of national racism, all Japanese Americans were regarded as disloyal, and 120,000 people of Japanese descent were arrested and sent to internment camps. A few hundred people on Hawaii were detained, but there were no mass arrests. Some scholars credit American intelligence for assuring the White House that Hawaii’s Japanese Americans were loyal, but practical reasons predominated: Locking up more than one-third of the island’s population would wreck its economy. Neither Yoshikawa nor Wada was a significant historical figure, but they lived long enough to be interviewed and written about, providing material for this revealing account. Though sometimes unnecessarily breathless, this is decent military history that will appeal to World War II buffs. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly
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NCIS star Harmon and Carroll, the show’s technical adviser, spotlight in their fast-paced debut how the historical precursor of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service dueled with Japanese spies in Hawaii during WWII. In 1939, FDR ordered the Office of Naval Intelligence to “investigate domestic threats of espionage and sabotage.” In Hawaii, Douglas Wada was recruited as the agency’s only Japanese American counterintelligence agent at a time when Japanese Americans accounted for more than a third of the population. Wada’s job was to “monitor the local population,” but he and his fellow counterintelligence officers correctly regarded Japan’s consular agents and their staff as the real spies in Hawaii, rather than members of the overwhelmingly loyal Japanese American community. After the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S. counterintelligence chiefs in Hawaii, aware the attack had been guided by information that had “come from a spy working in the consulate in Honolulu,” advocated against the kind of mass internment of Japanese Americans that occurred in the western U.S. Wada continued his career through the Cold War decades, as the Office of Naval Intelligence evolved into the NCIS, and died in 2007. The authors strikingly paint WWII-era Hawaii as a spy-vs.-spy battleground, detailing Wada’s covert cat-and-mouse games with the Japanese consulate. Espionage buffs will savor this vibrant account of a dogged WWII investigator. (Nov.)