Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Billy Boyle by James R. Benn

63. Billy Boyle - first in the Billy Boyle World War II Mystery series
by James R. Benn
mystery, 2006
Kindle book - 10
finished, 10/11/10

After having lost a family member in the last war, the Boyles of South Boston want to try and keep their detective policeman son, Billy safe in this second war. Luckily, they have a relative who might just be able to facilitate their wish - General Dwight David Eisenhower, a distant cousin to Billy, whom he has always called, 'Uncle.' Billy lands in London where he is given a job to find a German spy in the Allied headquarters. The story is based on a true one I had never heard of. When our story begins in 1942, Billy becomes involved in Operation Jupiter. From the author's note:
... an Allied deception campaign aimed at convincing the Germans that Norway was a likely invasion target. Eisenhower exploited Operation Jupiter fully, even to the extent of issuing winter-weather gear to troops in England who were actually about to depart for the invasion of North Africa. His desire to make Norway into one big prisoner-of-war camp was fulfilled. ... Over 375,000 German soldiers, sailors, and airmen sat idle in Norway by the end of World War II.
Billy is charged to find the spy who could sabotage this whole operation.

The book has the rare sense of being written when it happened rather than a book written now about that time. It felt authentic. Nothing jarred me into thinking, oh, that wasn't said or done in those days. I am always interested in different slants on the past; facets I haven't thought much about. And this book offers a new one. A Boston Irish-American cop goes to war, and must work alongside the despised English. Billy's Uncle Dan:
Like any good IRA man, he hated the English. It had galled him to fight on the same side as the English in his war, and he didn't want me to do the same in mine.
But Billy does work alongside the English, and comes to care deeply for them. The book is really a story of Billy's coming of age. By the end of the book he has matured, and realizes there is a lot more gray in the world than just black and white. There is some looking back at his family life, at his father's work as a police detective. The characters are all fully-drawn, interesting people whose lives we get to glimpse as they do their important work. I learned so much about the Norway situation, the work that women did in the War, the relationship between the English and the Americans. There was a little bit of the feeling of the television series, Foyle's War, which I loved.

I so enjoyed Billy Boyle, the book and the character. Being told from his point of view made him seem so real. The reader sees his foibles and his strengths. The book has humor and it has sadness. I am so happy there are more books in the series, and I've already bought the second one.


  1. Terrific book, Nan. I read it a while back and have continued with the series. Though I understand now that I missed a book. Oh well, playing catch-up is part of the fun. I'm glad you liked it as well.
    The author, James R. Benn was commenting over on detectives beyong borders blog, we all had a nice discussion last week about the Boyle books.

  2. Yvette, I think that's where I read about the great covers, but I didn't read where the author commented. I just haven't had time to visit blogs as much as I'd like. :<( Thanks for leaving a note. I just loved this book.

  3. Just have to pop in and tell you how much I love your header. Great light!

  4. Your pictures are absolutely beautiful! May I ask what kind of camera you have? (Of course, the photographer is obviously talented!)

  5. I have this one, too, but didn't know anybody who had read it. So happy to see that you did and liked it - lots! :)

  6. This sounds like a book I would love. I haven't heard of this author so thank you for the recommendation. I too like books that give me a new insight into the way people lived in different situations.

  7. There is such enthusiasm in your review, and such a well written review, I know I will want to pick this up and read someday soon. Since I have loved Foyle's War, I want to read it even more. Thanks for a great post and another book to add to my list.

  8. Les, thank you. The light was just great that evening, and luckily I could catch it!

    Judy, a couple of people have asked, so I think I'll do a blog entry on the camera. Stay tuned. :<) I have absolutely no talent whatsoever. I point, I shoot. Sometimes I get a good shot. I delete hundreds.

    Thoughts of Joy, it was so very good. He's such a good character. Guileless, real.

    Oh, yes, Maureen, this one's surely for you. You'd really like it.

    Life on the cut off, thank you. I feared I didn't do the book enough credit. The way it is like Foyle's War is the concern with crime while war is going on. And of course the setting.

  9. This book and series will go on my TBR list. Very nice review.

    Did I tell you that I bought a KINDLE? Your recommendation helped me decide. Also the fact that we had a terrible time finding books while on our roadtrip. We're back in the land of libraries now, but I'm reading on the Kindle too. I love it!

  10. Sallie, thank you. And I'm thrilled you got yourself a Kindle!!


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