A Billy Boyle World War II Mystery #11
James R. Benn
Soho Crime, September 2016
Billy Boyle has received all kinds of assignments in his capacity as a special investigator on Eisenhower’s staff. But few, if any, match the bizarre task before him in the Blue Madonna. To begin with, he is arrested, tried on trumped up charges and stripped of his Captaincy and sentenced to time in the stockade for black market activities. (This, of course, a subterfuge to provide a cover story as part of an investigation.) Then he is sent behind enemy lines to rescue a downed airman who is needed to testify against a black market gang.
No sooner does Billy arrive in occupied France than he finds himself investigating two murders of airmen being hidden in a chateau. And he even participates in partisan operations, blowing up railroad tracks and bridges.
The Billy Boyle series takes him through various phases of World War II. This novel takes place as Allied troops sail for Normandy on D-Day, giving the author the opportunity to describe conditions in Occupied France, how the partisans operated, and what was done to return downed airmen through clandestine networks. The Blue Madonna, a valuable piece of art, is an example of how many Jews and others attempted to prevent the Nazis from stealing their possessions by hiding them in such places as the chateau, which also secreted parachuted Allied fliers.
As were the first 10 books in the series, Blue Madonna is highly recommended.
Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2016.
Putnam, May 2016
Mass Market Paperback
What would you do if by some off-chance you broke into a wall in your home and discovered $3.7 million in cash? That is the good luck that befalls Rick Hoffman, erstwhile unemployed journalist. And then the bad luck follows. Rick begins to wonder where the money came from. He can’t ask his father, whose house it was, because the latter was left speechless and partially paralyzed by a stroke about two decades before. Rick was once an investigative journalist, and uses these talents to find answers.
He soon discovers that his attorney father was a fixer, paying off various persons to ward off claims against powerful Boston figures. And for his efforts he is beaten severely, almost killing him, as was his father before him, to stop Rick from pursuing his investigation. But he perseveres.
The story moves ahead in a straightforward manner, with each step along the way uncovering additional information, until Rick can prove where the money came from and why. But more importantly, as Rick explains, he continues because he wants to know how the story ends. And so will you.
Reviewed by Ted Feit, June 2016.