Billy Boyle Paperback – May 3 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Former Boston Irish Cop, from a family of Boston Irish Cops, Billy Boyle was a newly-made detective and is now a Lieutenant in the US Army. In spite of thinking he wouldn’t be assigned to Europe, his distant cousin manages to get him a staff job—in England assigned to the staff of General Dwight D. Eisenhower as his personal investigator. His first assignment is to catch a spy who may have been planted at Beardsley Hall, English home for the exiled Norwegian government.
The book has an excellent opening with a style that addresses the reader in a let-me-tell-you-a-story style. His voice is engaging and humor, natural. There is also an honesty in the way he writes emotion.
Benn establishes a solid sense of place. Admittedly, the descriptions of London and Boston may have resonated more strongly with me than they may for others as I know both places. However, even when he moved the story away from those locations, there was always a clear feeling for the location.
The characters are fully drawn. Billy is the focus and the voice, but even with Kas, the Polish baron, and Daphne, proper English daughter of a knight, you know their backgrounds and who they are.
One of the most interesting aspects is Billy’s perspective on the war, as an American amongst the English and Norwegians. I particularly appreciated the way in which Benn intertwined the events of Billy’s present with memories from his past, as well as his understanding of people and level of caring.
There is a lot of fascinating historical detail embedded within the plot, much of which I had never known.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
There are things that Billy doesn't know about "Operation Juno," and things that Ike doesn't know about Billy, particularly that Billy passed the detective's exam only with some family help. And Billy himself doesn't know how he's going to pull this off, but he knows his duty when he sees it. And he's been a Boston cop for five years, and has learned a lot about detection from his father, himself a veteran South Boston cop.
So Billy begins his investigation, and then there's a murder, and then another death, a heartbreaking one. Billy moves about, from London to the English countryside, and to other military bases, learning all the time--from his associates, from the people he meets along the way, and from his own memories of his father's life and what his father has taught him. Things like "chasing a lie" to find the truth, and looking for remorse when it should be found, but isn't always.
The writing here is absolutely excellent, skillfully interweaving Billy's search for a murderer and for justice with the lessons that he's been learning all his life, now concentrated in a war-time environment. The characters are beautifully realized, and all have something to teach Billy. Eisenhower appears only a few times, but each time he introduces a theme of the novel: family, the inevitability of loss, and the terrible costs of war. And the author shines in his characterization of Billy, who at the start of his tale is simultaneously cocky yet unsure of himself in this brand new milieu; as his investigation continues, he learns the lessons of war, and of family, of true bravery, and of manhood.
The various settings are perfectly detailed, whether in bombed-out London, at an English country house, or in a newly-built mess hall in England, so new that the sawdust from its construction still lies in straight lines on the ground nearby. Likewise, dialogue is true to the period, yet never trite.
This is a fine book, with an engaging hero. It is suspenseful, often charming, and always thoughtful, right up to its exciting denouement. I'm looking forward to the next one in the series.
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