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SOLEMN GRAVES  by James R. Benn


by James R. Benn

Pub Date: Sept. 4th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-61695-849-7
Publisher: Soho Crime

Brash Billy Boyle faces special challenges as he tries to implement a low-profile probe.

A month after D-Day, U.S. Army detective Billy Boyle and Staff Sgt. “Big Mike” Miecznikowski arrive in Normandy, its landscape dotted with dead cows, to investigate the murder of Maj. David Jerome, commanding officer of the Signals Company, 2nd Armored Division, who’s been found with his throat slashed at the 30th Division battalion headquarters, a scene marked by a lot of blood, a lot of booze, and the smell of morphine, all seemingly significant clues. Yvonne, the haunted, fragile beauty who discovered the body, is too frightened to answer questions. There are disturbing rumors that Yvonne is a German spy, and the rest of the locals warrant nearly as much suspicion. Billy is just getting a handle on the place and starting his investigation when they encounter another corpse, this one wearing a German uniform and shot through the eye. The arrival of Kaz, Billy’s customary sidekick (The Devouring, 2017, etc.), helps the sleuths gain traction as they begin by seeking Jerome’s own division headquarters. Though they fill in several minor details about Jerome’s movements, their probing mostly confirms that all roads of inquiry lead back to Yvonne. But as the trio digs deeper and deals with more victims, they begin to question the allegiances of everyone in the small community.

Benn’s plotting and his first-person narrative both acquire more gravitas as they continue to chart the course of World War II. His latest outing is a complex tale that hinges on a particular moment in world history he captures incisively.