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The First Wave
By James R. Benn

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The First Wave

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The First Wave
A Billy Boyle World War II Mystery
By James R. Benn
Kennebec Large Print, Large Print Edition (2009)
ISBN 10: 1-59722-928-8
ISBN 13: 978-1-59722-928-9
Genre: Mystery

Reviewed by Herbert White - January 11, 2010

With The First Wave, James R. Benn is back with his second Billy Boyle mystery set against the backdrop of the Second World War. This installment finds Army lieutenant Boyle still working for his 'uncle' General Dwight D. Eisenhower. He has been sent along with the first wave of Allied troops to land in Algeria. His mission is not to fight. Instead, he is tasked with moving in enemy country and making contact with various secret agents who are to help him to try and arrange for the surrender of the Vichy French, who are holding Algeria.

This is not the cushy office job that his mother envisioned for him when she 'pulled strings' to get him a job at Uncle Ike's headquarters in London. But for Billy, who is at heart just a regular Boston Cop, he would much rather be going on dangerous missions behind enemy lines than to be slogging along with the infantry or worse, sitting behind a desk in a requisitioned mansion. The chance of his succeeding in his mission is not the best, and all seems lost when he and his companion Georgie are captured by the Gardes Mobiles (Vichy Police) almost before they have even begun their job. Throughout the course of this novel, Boyle gets himself into and out of a series of nasty scrapes that tend to result in a growing body count. Along the way his mission is further jeopardized when he falls afoul of some black marketeers, meets that odd spy, discovers that the French in Algeria are anything but united, and even finds time to rescue his girlfriend who was captured by the enemy.

All in all, this was an interesting book to read and I found The First Wave to be a much grittier novel than the first book in the series, Billy Boyle. However, while the plot does have some nice complications, it is still far too easy to tell who the bad guys are and to figure out the solution to the mystery far too early. On the plus side, Benn does infuse the story with a fine dose of historical factoids that will delight fans of military or historical mysteries, and he has allowed the character of Billy Boyle to rapidly mature over the rather naive youth of the first book. This more mature and wiser Boyle makes for a more rounded and interesting character, which greatly improved the flow of the story.

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