59. The First Wave - book 2 in the Billy Boyle WW II series
by James R. Benn
Kindle book, 36
As I mentioned in my book report on the first book in the series, these World War II Billy Boyle stories are a bit like the television show, Foyle's War only with a young American soldier instead of an older English policeman. And while Foyle dealt with crimes at home during the War, Billy is overseas. I am a little surprised that I like this series so well. I'm not wild for war stories and most of the characters are men but still, I really like the books. I like Billy Boyle, Boston boy of Irish heritage who had just made detective (with some help).
This time Billy Boyle is in French North Africa, in Vichy France territory. This is a picture of the real Operation Torch which our fictional hero was involved in.
Once safely there, Billy gets involved in more French politics than he had imagined, and he has a hard time knowing who are the good guys. He meets Diana, the woman he fell in love with in the first book, in jail of all places. I'm not great with all the military strategy, but then again, Billy isn't so much either. Since he is a detective in civilian life, he detects in his military life. As in Foyle's War, there is a lot of regular crime going on in the midst of the war, and deaths occur which aren't directly caused by military action.
In this story, the reader and Billy learn a lot about the realities of being a woman in wartime. Their pay is lower than that of the men. They don't receive the same respect as men. And the same physical dangers which face them at home are equally threatening as they work in the arena of war. There were parts that were very difficult for me to read, and for Billy to deal with.
As one setting is a field hospital, we learn the importance of the new wonder drug penicillin and the dangers of morphine.
Billy's sometimes humorous narration offers relief from the dangers and cruelties of the situation. I smile when he refers to himself as 'Mrs. Boyle's boy.' I like the way he brings his police life to his work as a soldier.
I had to notice everything around me, as if I were following a shooter up the rear stairway of a tenement with no backup.
I was glad they were all here, and I thought about nights back in Boston when Dad and Uncle Dan had something going and the house would fill with cops, all watching out for each other. It felt good to be part of something that brought men like these together. Part of it was suffering ... It was the possibility of death that made men look each other in the eye, grip shoulders, give a nod that said Yes, I will risk everything for you.And though he is light-hearted, he has a more serious, philosophic outlook as well.
I saw a few heads peek out of windows and doors and wondered what the locals were thinking. It might not make a whole lot of difference to them whether the French, Germans, Italians, or Americans ran the place. Whoever it was, they'd end up with the same short end of the stick. We might come as liberators, but we weren't planning to give the country back to the original owners.Billy Boyle is really a wonderful character, and I'd like to think that the author might bring him home to Boston after the war. At this time there are six books in the series. I have number three waiting for me on the Kindle.