By Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Out and Travelin’, Critics On The Aisle
Here are two riveting books that are a tribute to American and allied service men and women. Each book is number 13 in two separate series – one by acclaimed novelist James R. Benn, the other by equally accomplished author Martin Limon. As a gift, they all have stand-alone plots and can be read in any sequence.
James Benn’s critically acclaimed Billy Boyle WWII murder mysteries combine fictional characters with real-life heroes and historic facts to greatly heighten the plausibility of every dangerous twist and turn in his well-crafted and cinematic plots.
His personal travels and extensive research made him aware of the ordinary men and women who heroically saved lives, and many who lost their own, on the battlefield and behind enemy lines.
Benn says, “The
reviews and feedback tell me that the [WW II] stories resonate with so many
people. I have so many requests from people who want me to talk to their
fathers or spouses – ‘the guys who were there.’ When I do meet with them, they
are usually reluctant to talk about their war experiences. Some have never
discussed the war before with anyone. They’ll tell me about all the fun stuff,
but then when they are comfortable talking with me, they get into the pain and
suffering and killing.
I was fortunate to have talked at length with 92-year-old Ted Cummings,
who gave me a lot of insight for book number 10, ‘The White Ghost,’ and the war
in the Pacific. Sadly, he died a few days after the book
launch. It’s the veterans like him who contribute realism to the Billy Boyle stories.”
The newest Billy Boyle WWII mystery novel, Solemn Graves, reveals a recently declassified and startling historic fact, which, if leaked in June 1944, could have sunk the Normandy invasion.
Bennonce again has created a can’t-put-it-down book. This time Capt. Boyle, a former Boston detective, and his team, including Chicago cop Big Mike, partner up in Normandy to solve the murder of an American officer in a heavily guarded HQ close to the front.
The victim of the murder, an army officer, Major Jerome, was found dead in the sitting room of a farmhouse owned by Madame Janvier. The madame, despite it being wartime and her home and cider mill occupied at various times by both Allied and Nazi soldiers, carries on trimming her apple trees, and stoically goes on with her day-to-day life. She begrudgingly offers her hospitality to the armies of both sides in exchange for survival.
Billy and Mike are joined during the investigation by characters familiar to Benn’s regular readers -Polish Lieutenant ‘Kaz’ Kazimierz and Billy’s elusive love Diana Seaton, a behind-the-lines operative with the French Underground. Together they are tasked with solving the murder and bringing the killer to justice.
Benn’s words are so descriptive that the reader can experience a trick of the imagination and almost smell the coffee brewing on Madame Janvier’s kitchen stove.
Solemn Graves is James Benn’s most cinematic book to date. It vividly describes the chaos of war, along with the bloody and brutal carnage caused by the fighting units. The story is set the crucial days following D-Day with the barrages of shelling and Nazi tanks slowing down the allied advance. One can “see” the destroyed villages and feel the emotions of the French residents suffering and having their lives disrupted by a trio of armed combatants: the Nazis, the Resistance and even the Allies trying to advance to Paris. Despite the horrors, Benn still gives Billy Boyle and his companions sarcastic black humor, quick-witted dialogue and empathetic humanity.
The book is crackling with a plethora of red herrings, edge-of-your-chair terror, and non-stop action. Much care has been taken to lead the story down one road, only to find it blocked by a destroyed stone wall or bombed out church- thereby creating a U-turn onto another questionable path.
This perfectly crafted tale incorporates hair-raising historic fact and prominent people involved in the European theater, especially Normandy – interwoven with the fictional characters that are mainstays in James Benn’s action-crammed mystery novels.
A great read for fans of WWII books, mystery buffs, active and retired military men and women, veterans, action/adventure readers and aficionados of detective stories.
This is one of those terrific sagas that will keep you up all night, turning page after page of non-stop adventure. And for those readers on your Vet and holiday gift list, this is a winner. Highly recommended.
Among critical acclaim across the country, The New York Times Book Review calls Benn’s novels “Spirited wartime storytelling.”
Acclaimed author and army vet Martin Limon has again hit the target with his 13th military murder mystery The Line. As always, Limon’s books are richly enhanced by his twenty years in the US Army, including five tours of duty over ten years in Korea starting in 1968.
His heroes, Sergeant George Sueño and his partner, Ernie Bascom, are stationed in Korea with the US 8th Army in the 1970s. They investigate crimes in which US Army personnel might have been involved. Meanwhile, George, who is very interested in Korea and its culture, does what he can to soften everyone’s bad opinion of Americans in Korea.
In The Line, his two irreverent 8th Army detectives George Sueño and Ernie Bascom investigate a murder of a South Korean soldier in the still explosive Demilitarized Military Zone (DMZ) line in Korea.
The victim had been working closely with the U.S and is unfortunately found murdered a few feet north of “the line”. George and Ernie are charged with dragging the body south into their jurisdiction. Their action is a violation of the fragile treaty that could lead to another war.
To prevent a full-scale North Korean attack, George and Ernie must solve the murder of the South Korean soldier. A US soldier is suspected and is quickly charged with the murder by higher authorities. Even though George and Ernie present hard evidence that proves he’s innocent they are shockingly taken off the case.
The duo breaks all the rules because they believe the wrong man is behind bars. They face unrelenting conflict, including discrimination, three military bureaucracies with its ingrained politics, multiple murder suspects, and corruption on both sides of the war-zone. The verdict: Limon’s books have won the praise of vets, military writers and book reviewers, including The New York Times, and BOOKLIST: “Throughout this critically acclaimed series, Limón has displayed a remarkable talent for weaving his background knowledge of the country into his plots.”
Single copies of the current books are available at neighborhood booksellers and online in most formats. For a collection of any of the Benn or the Limon books, go to https://sohopress.com/series/the-billy-boyle-wwii-mysteries/. and https://sohopress.com/authors/martin-limon/