Billy Boyle by James R. Benn: A review

This historical mystery series set in the World War II era has been recommended to me on several occasions over the years. It seemed churlish not to give it a try, starting of course with the first in the series, the eponymous Billy Boyle.

William "Billy" Boyle was a 22 year old Irish-American policeman in Boston when the United States entered World War II in 1941. He had just made detective and was looking forward to a long career along the lines of his father and uncle who were also Boston cops.

His family was naturally concerned about the thought of Billy being swept into the war and they pulled all the strings they could lay their hands on to get him into Officers Candidate School. The family, on his mother's side, had a connection to Gen. Eisenhower through Ike's wife Mamie, and they were hoping that Billy could be assigned as an aide to Ike in some cushy office in Washington. It didn't quite work out that way. Billy was assigned to the general but, after he graduated from OCS, he was on his way to London where Ike had taken over as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe. 

Billy was to serve as Ike's own discreet investigator and his first assignment is to root out a spy. He is sent to Beardsley Hall, the seat of the Norwegian government in exile, where it is believed there is a German spy operating. Operation Jupiter, supposedly the Allied invasion of Norway, is being planned so the spy must be found and stopped.

The inexperienced Boston cop is out of his element and has little faith in his own abilities. His confidence in himself and others' confidence in him is tested further as he soon finds himself looking not only for a spy but for a murderer. First, one of the Norwegians, a confidante of the king, is murdered. Then a young woman who had been assigned as a driver and assistant to Billy is killed and a Polish officer who was also helping is critically injured. Had they learned something about the first murder that put them in jeopardy? Are there two murderers or only one? Billy must find out before more deaths occur.

Benn did a very good job of describing the English countryside and the atmosphere of fear in London under the Blitz, as well as the stiff upper lip, keep calm and carry on attitude of the average resident. He also conveyed the awkwardness of a young man who had never been out of Massachusetts and now found himself thrust upon a much larger stage and feeling very unprepared. Billy Boyle, though, proved to be a tough and resilient character and a better detective than anyone had a right to expect.

This was a highly entertaining read and it's good to know that there are at least twelve more in the series. I'm looking forward to spending more time in Billy's company.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars 


  1. After all those pages I read about London, the Blitz and WWII in Black Out and All Clear, I need a break from that story line, but this does sound good. And what did you need more than a new mystery series to enjoy?

    1. Exactly! I just started the "Mr. Churchill's Secretary" series and I thought these two might be interesting to read in tandem.

  2. I like the sound of this one: mystery and history in one. Glad you liked it so much. I look forward to your reviews of the next entries in the Billy Boyle saga.


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