Publisher: Soho Crime (September, 2019)
Kindle edition: $14.99
A Billy Boyle World War II Mystery (Book 14)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
August, 1944. The Allies are liberating Occupied France and the Germans are on the run. All roads lead to Paris, where the besieged Parisians are preparing for freedom and the Nazis are scrambling to destroy records of their horrendous actions.
The French Resistance groups are ramping up their activities. There are numerous factions: some are true patriots, seasoned fighters who’d honed their fighting skills in the 1939 Civil War in Spain, others represent the Communists, Catholics, or General de Gaulle. Some are using their position to settle old scores. One of them, codenamed Atlantik, is a traitor, feeding information to the Nazis.
At the 12th Army Headquarters at Saint-Gervaise, Colonel Sam Harding and other officers devise a plan to make use of the traitor. They make up a false document to mislead the Nazis about their plans to take Paris, and make it possible for the suspected traitor to grab it and take it to his handlers in Paris. Colonel Harding assigns his top investigators, Captain Billy Boyle and Lieutenant “Kaz” Kazimierz to follow Atlantik to Paris. Staff Sergeant “Big Mike” Mieczmikowski, who’s stood shoulder to shoulder with the two officers in many battles, and two members of the Resistance travel with them.
The road to Paris is fraught with danger, but they make it to their destination. And then the fun begins.
Mr. Benn’s books are always rich with detail, derived from meticulous research. All the horrors and triumphs of the war, the sounds and sights and smells, come alive on the page. In one particularly memorable scene, Billy and Kaz are driving away from a bloody battle scene at Hill 262, where thousands of German, Polish and Canadian soldiers were killed, the road and surrounding fields are covered with bodies and pieces of bodies so thick that they can’t avoid driving over them. General Eisenhower said “It was literally possible to walk for hundreds of yards at a time, stepping on nothing but dead and decaying flesh.” Prose like this makes a lasting impression. Benn’s writing excels in such prose.
As always, Benn seamlessly weaves historical figures into the story. Generals Eisenhower and Patton make an appearance, as well as young reporter Andy Rooney and a swashbuckling Ernest Hemingway. This is the fourteenth book in the Billy Boyle series. Each book has been excellent, but in my opinion WHEN HELL STRUCK TWELVE is the best yet. Until the next one. Highly recommended.
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