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by James R. Benn

Pub Date: March 14th, 2023
ISBN: 9781641294515
Publisher: Soho Crime

Nine robust stories that present the myriad faces of war and its collateral damage, corporeal and moral.

Benn’s collection is temporally diverse but thematically unified. The author of the long-running Billy Boyle World War II mystery series, he keeps his resourceful military sleuth in the wings but includes a handful of Billy-adjacent narratives. “Billy Boyle: The Lost Prologue” has a twisty plot involving murder, Norwegian gold, and a German spy. It stands alone as a thriller but also provides a backstory to the 2006 series kickoff. The haunting title story revisits Malou and Lena, two female characters from the Boyle series, prisoners working in a Nazi factory and struggling to survive. “Irish Tommy” depicts a different kind of war on the crime-ridden streets of Boston, with Police Lt. Daniel Boyle, Billy’s uncle, at the center of the action. Benn’s writing throughout is confident, each story long on period and military detail and fully immersed in its chosen era. Freed from the requirement of a whodunit, character relationships land with more impact. These are full-bodied adventure tales, each creating a fully realized world with three-dimensional people, reminiscent of classic genre stories of a bygone era. Other entries are set during the American Revolution and the final days of the Korean War as well as Benn’s bailiwick, World War II. “Glass,” an offbeat 1960s crime story with an SF flavor, is an homage to Stephen King. And “The Secret of Hemlock Hill” follows the discoveries of a modern-day Civil War fanatic.

Top-notch adventure fiction with a retro feel.