Thursday, November 8, 2012

On Being Billy Boyle

Billy Boyle is a Boston cop. His dad and his uncle are both Boston cops and both served in World War I. Billy's turn to join the military comes in 1941 when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor and the United States is thrown into war. 

Billy signs up for Officer Candidate School and ends up in London working for a distant cousin that he calls Uncle Ike - General Dwight D. Eisenhower. 

His first assignment is to use his investigative skills to find a German spy. This leads him to Beardsley Hall, an English country house, where the king of Norway and a group of his aides and military commandos are living in exile after the Germans had invaded and occupied their country.

There is a murder, a romance, a car bomb, a theft. The plot also involves the true story of a plan that got gold out of Norway (as the Germans were invading the country) and safely ensconced in American banks. 

Billy is a bit of a fish out of water in England, a bit brash, but seems to have a good heart. He wants to complete his mission: find the murderer and determine the identity of the spy.

Billy reflects on war and why one death (the murder of someone he barely knew) should mean so much to him when all around thousands are dying. He struggles with British nomenclature and teaches his new-found friends some American slang.  He falls in love at the drop of a blackout curtain. But, he never does get used to drinking tea. 

This is the first in a series of WWII mysteries starring Billy Boyle written by James R. Benn.  I liked Billy. His observations on British life are sharp and he comes into his own as a forensic detective even if he is sometimes in over his head. The writing is lively and entertaining. The climax was exciting and it was served with a twist.

All in all a good read.

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