Solemn Graves is the newest of the outstanding Billy Boyle World War II mystery series, set within the Allied High Command in Europe. The focus on the characters’ stories is surrounded with a brilliantly researched, historic time and place. It’s illustrated against a background of military protocol, weapons and culture. The action scenes are vivid and exciting, and skillfully written to convey the essence of this action even to readers who haven’t felt anything like World War II.
This time U.S. Army detective Billy Boyle is called to investigate a mysterious murder in a Normandy farmhouse, threatening Allied operations just a month after D-Day. The investigation is top secret to protect the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, which are also known as the Ghost Army. The activities of the Ghost Army are meant to cause the enemy to think they’re facing larger formations than they really are. That misdirection is meant to change the enemy’s actions and decisions based on misleading information, almost like red herrings are meant to mislead mystery readers. In this book you get two-for-one fiction, a mystery and a history.
Thoughtful writing describes the investigative drive pulsing through Billy Boyle. Reading through this acclaimed series from its first book, this character learns and grows into his responsibilities. As he now comes into this Normandy murder scene, he positions himself. “I stood back, studying the scene, trying not to draw conclusions and let the room talk to me. It was one of the things my dad had taught me, or tried to, back in Boston. He was a homicide detective, and as soon as I got my badge as a rookie cop, he dragged me along to watch and study him at work . . . so here I was, carrying on the family business in Normandy, wearing khaki, instead of home in Boston, wearing blue.” Stakes are as high as ever this time, unmasking the murderer while safeguarding the secret of the Ghost Army is critical, if that secret is discovered it could turn the tide of war decisively against the Allies.
Author James Benn turned to writing full time in 2011, after over 35 years employed in the Library and Information Technology fields. With that background, it’s no wonder that his research is so thorough and interesting. He’s a graduate of the University of Connecticut, receiving his MLS degree from Southern Connecticut State University. When speaking about his Billy Boyle series he emphasizes that it “has brought me an immense amount of joy. I’ve gotten to meet people in person and online from all over the country (and the rest of the world) and hear their reactions, feedback, and most importantly, their own stories.”
And if you want to hear more from the author listen on YouTube to — Kendall & Cooper Talk Mysteries with James R. Benn.
Wendy Kendall is a writer, project manager and volunteer at the Edmonds Library. Follow her via her blog here or on Twitter @wendywrites1.