Sunday, September 18, 2011

The First Wave by James R. Benn

59. The First Wave - book 2 in the Billy Boyle WW II series
by James R. Benn
mystery, 2007
Kindle book, 36
finished, 9/2/11

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.


  1. I like this period a great deal. Not sure why I like to read about WWI and WWII so much, but I do. In fact and fiction! Adding this series to my list. Thanks, Nan.

  2. Nan, I bought the first two after reading your recommendation and I thoroughly enjoyed them. Like you, I don't usually read war stories but these are different, aren't they? I passed my cpies on to my daughter and they are doing the rounds of her friends now. we all thank you!

    The third book is on my wish list. I will have to get on and read it as I didn't know there were more already out there.

  3. I admire you for trying different genres. This is one I'd never pick up -- for the reasons you say you were surprised you like it. But my Kindle home page is so full of unread books. The Library is just a short jaunt away though and when I go in to pick up books for Bill (I seem to be the designated Library visitor) I will try to remind myself to get something different from my usual. (I try to read at least one Library book every couple of weeks, but it is getting harder and harder -- the Kindle is so darn handy). (Bill says he only reads 'real' books. )

  4. So many books, so little time - as the saying goes. I was intrigued by your first Billy Boyle review, now, even more so, Nan. My TBR list keeps getting longer and longer (I won't even mention the teetering piles).

  5. Nice interesting review thanks Nan :0)

  6. I do, too Jenclair, just not usually the actual war experience side of it. But this series is really excellent. I'll be interested to read what you think of it.

    Maureen, I'm so touched that you did that. I'm not sure about the 'two' part though, since this is just my second report on the series. Are you by any chance thinking of another series?

    Sallie, I don't do that very often. I'm not a reader who says oh, I ought to read such-and-such. I only read what I want to read. I'm right in between you and Bill. I love my paper books the most, but I like the convenience and comfort of reading the Kindle at bedtime.

    Penny, what I want to know is, do you have real book piles or metaphorical book piles?!

    Val, so good to hear from you! I so enjoy these books.

  7. Mrs. Boyle's boy is now on my radar. He sounds delightful. And I do like war settings.

  8. Barbara, isn't that the dearest expression?! I think you'll like the series.

  9. Nan
    I bought the first book after reading your review and enjoyed it so much that I ordered the second straight away.

  10. Maureen, aren't you nice to come back! Now I get it. Duh. :<)

  11. This is a good series, Nan. Thanks for the reminder. I read a couple of the books and then, for whatever reason, I didn't read the rest. I think there are about 4 or 5 by now.

    I do enjoy reading about that era very much.

  12. Nan,
    I love reading non fiction books... World War 2 memoirs have a special place in my heart since I spoke with so many vets making plans to go to their army/navy reunions. (I worked as a travel agent from 1982 until 2000.) War stories, even if they are fiction, are usually interesting to me. Like you, I loved Foyle's War!

  13. Nan, I have real book piles. Right now, one is teetering on my night table, there are several in a basket on the floor in the same room, several piles in the den/library, not to mention the groaning shelves, and, dare I admit, a pile of nine books hovering at the back door from the library.

    I'll never get to them all.

    I won't even mention the list, on good old paper, that I keep close at hand. I'm hopeless.

  14. Yvette, I want to try and read the rest of them closer together. And I really do hope the author brings Billy home to post-war Boston to do some detective work.

    Kay, one thing I especially like about the series is the different places the author takes Billy.

    Penny, thanks for coming back to tell me. I'd like to see those book piles. Photos on your blog??


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