A promising premise—placing a callow Boston police officer in the midst of WWII intrigue—isn't fully realized in this first of a new historical series from Benn (Desperate Ground). Soon after Pearl Harbor, Billy Boyle escapes a combat tour because his Southie family pulls strings to place him on the staff of a distant relative by marriage, a general named Dwight Eisenhower, whom Billy calls "Uncle Ike." Billy's untried detective skills are soon put to the test in London, where he's assigned to unmask a spy who may compromise Allied plans to drive the Nazis out of Norway. When one of the chief suspects turns up dead, an apparent suicide, Billy displays a knack for forensics as he uncovers medical anomalies that suggest homicide. Hopefully, Uncle Ike will have more to do in future installments—and Benn will introduce the sort of character complexity that distinguishes, say, Charles Todd's WWI-era psychological whodunits (A Long Shadow, etc.) or PBS TV's Foyle's War, which also involves murder investigations during WWII. (Sept.)
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Billy Boyle is a Boston cop, from a family of Boston cops, but he is a reluctant soldier who prefers walking the beat in Southie to fighting Nazis. Using her cousin by marriage, a certain General Eisenhower, Billy's mother lands her son a seemingly soft job with Ike's staff in London. But Ike wants Billy to use his investigative know-how to sniff out a possible spy in the Allies' inner circle. Young Billy, oversold by his mother as a crackerjack detective, is definitely in over his head, especially when it turns out that the apparent suicide of a Norwegian dignitary may have been the work of the spy. Benn has a tantalizing premise here, but he doesn't quite deliver on it: his prose slips into wartime cliches a little too often, and the supporting love story reeks of WWII melodrama. Yet the action builds to a suspenseful climax, and there is even a hint of moral ambiguity in the wrap-up. A not entirely satisfactory debut, then, but Ken Follett fans will want to give Billy and his uncle a chance to develop. Bill Ott
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