Reviews by L. J. Roberts

JAMES R. BENN – Billy Boyle. Soho Press, hardcover, 2006; softcover,2007.

JAMES BENN Billy Boyle

Genre:   Historical mystery. Leading character:   Billy Boyle, 1st in series. Setting:   England; 1942/World War II.

First Sentence:   I typed the date under my name: Lieutenant William Boyle, August 6, 1942.

   Former Boston Irish Cop, from a family of Boston Irish Cops, Billy Boyle was a newly-made detective and is now a Lieutenant in the US Army. In spite of thinking he wouldn’t be assigned to Europe, his distant cousin manages to get him a staff job — in England assigned to the staff of General Dwight D. Eisenhower as his personal investigator. His first assignment is to catch a spy who may have been planted at Beardsley Hall, English home for the exiled Norwegian government.

   There are eight primary elements for which I look when starting any new book and Benn really managed to tick all the boxes. Let’s start with “hook”. The book has an excellent opening with a style that addresses the reader in a let-me-tell-you-a-story style. His voice is engaging and humor, natural. There is also an honesty in the way he writes emotion.

   Benn establishes a solid sense of place. Admittedly, the descriptions of London and Boston may have resonated more strongly with me than they may for others as I know both places. However, even when he moved the story away from those locations, there was always a clear feeling for the location.

   The characters are fully drawn. Billy is the focus and the voice, but even with Kas, the Polish baron, and Daphne, proper English daughter of a knight, you know their backgrounds and who they are.

   One of the most interesting aspects is Billy’s perspective on the war, as an American amongst the English and Norwegians. I particularly appreciated the way in which Benn intertwined the events of Billy’s present with memories from his past, as well as his understanding of people and level of caring.

   There is a lot of fascinating historical detail embedded within the plot, much of which I had never known. Still, it is a mystery and I enjoyed Billy taking control of his first crime scene which also provided interesting information on forensics.

   Billy Boyle was an absolutely treat to read. Although I wonder why I hadn’t discovered him sooner, I’m delighted to know there is a whole series ahead of me.

Rating:   Very Good Plus.

       The Billy Boyle World War II mystery series —

1. Billy Boyle (2006)
2. The First Wave (2007)

JAMES BENN Billy Boyle

3. Blood Alone (2008)
4. Evil for Evil (2009)
5. Rag and Bone (2010)
6. A Mortal Terror (2011)
7. Death’s Door (2012)
8. A Blind Goddess (2013)