Review: Billy Boyle: A World War II Mystery
“The Norwegians had their own commando units that worked with the British Special Operations Executive. Together with SOE units, they were conducting hit-and-run raids along the Norwegian coast, blowing up fisheries and fish-oil-processing plants. That sounded pointless until I read that fish oil was a key ingredient in making nitroglycerin. War certainly is educational.”
Billy Boyle: A World War II Mystery
written by James R. Benn
It’s not only war that is educational…Billy Boyle: A World War II Mystery is likely to teach you a thing or two.
Don’t let that put you off, though. Like any good lesson, you don’t focus on the learning…it’s the ability to make the facts mean something, to connect them to the learner personally, that makes it work.
This is no dry history book. It’s a visceral historical mystery…but that’s just sticking a label on a good yarn.
Billy Boyle is a Boston cop. Not a grizzled old veteran…leave that to his father. He got on to the force, and helped out in homicide investigations, but he’s no Sherlock Holmes. He’s just a cop, doing his job.
When World War II comes up, the family figures they can get him a good position with his uncle, and keep him off the frontlines.
Yeah, that might work…but his “Uncle Ike” happens to be Dwight David Eisenhower.
That might make it sound like a wacky comedy, but it’s not. Benn brings an authenticity to these characters. One of the interesting points to me is how Boyle’s Irish family doesn’t really want to help out the English. That makes perfect sense, but it isn’t really something I’ve considered before. Boyle’s reaction to war-torn London is reasonable, and while he’s not your stereotypical hero, he’s a solid joe.
That last description gives you a sense of how Boyle talks. It’s not hard to understand. I really admire that this isn’t a gimmicky book, throwing all kinds of 1940s slang at you. It’s there, but it doesn’t seem out of place. One of the clever pieces is having one of the other characters be interested in how Americans speak, which allows Benn to explain an unusual term…not that I generally needed it. I’m pretty familiar with the period, though, having read literally hundreds of books from the 1930s and 1940s.
This is a mystery…there are clues, there are suspects, and it’s all set against the background of World War II. It’s not noir, and it’s not exactly pulp…it’s a novel.
There is violence, but not gore, and nothing sexually explicit. It reads like a 1940s Warner Brothers movie. That includes having a strong female character, and a dogged hero just struggling to put the pieces together.
I enjoyed this one…it kept me involved, and I was excited to get to what would happen next. It’s not fast-paced, and that works. It was amusing, exciting…and yes, one scene in particular, where a character describes a wartime incident, moved me.
It’s also the first in a series…now up to five titles. If you enjoy it, you’ll be able to look forward to more.
I want to mention that I got Billy Boyle when it was free in the Kindle store, and then it went up in price (that’s not unusual). As I write this, though, it is free again…presumably, for a limited time. If it sounds interesting to you, I wouldn’t wait.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.