Saturday, November 12, 2016

Blue Madonna by James R. Benn

First Sentence:  It was a nice day for a drive.

Captain Billy Boyle is court-marshaled, busted down to Private, and sentenced to three months hard labor.  But it’s all a ruse in order to get Billy behind enemy lines to rescue an Allied soldier currently at a not-so-very “safe house” in France.   Not only do they have to worry about the Germans, but someone is killing the soldiers housed there.
What an effective way to start a story.  Even though you suspect it’s a setup, and you don’t know where the story is going, you definitely want to find out.
Sudden bursts of action keep things exciting, but they are nicely offset by things such things as learning more about the background of Kaz, a wealthy man, who had gone to England to study, whose Polish family had been wiped out by the Nazis, now working with the American Army and living at the Dorchester Hotel in London.
Benn does an excellent job conveying the danger of situation, and the risky and important role women played during the war.  These weren’t clerks in safe offices, but resistance fighters working to defeat the Germans.  Add in a murder into the midst, and Billy’s history as a Boston cop comes into play with time to investigate as we witness the inhumanity of the SS.
Pacing is one of Benn’s many strengths, along with plotting.  You are drawn into the story and kept there, needing to know what happens next.  The balance between the hunt for a killer within their midst, while surviving the danger from the war provides a constant tension with highs and lows. 
The characters are so very real and interesting.  Benn’s voice, through Billy, is so well done—“As I stepped over the threshold, I had a momentary feeling of terror as I recalled a story that had scared the hell out of me as a kid.  “The Cask of Amontillado,” about a guy who was tricked into entering a basement niche and walled up inside.  Thanks a lot, Edgar Allen Poe.”  The Count is a wonderful character brought into this book.  He is very much a representative of that which is good about nobility; a guardian of centuries of history for his family, which region, and his country, but he is also a father.
Blue Madonna” has an excellent triple climax.  The book is suspenseful, dramatic, and a bit terrible.  There are well-done plot twists, and the reader is left with a definite need for the next book.

BLUE MADONNA (Hist Mys-Billy Boyle-France-WWII/1944) - Ex
      Benn, James R. – 11th in series
      Soho Crime – Sept 2016

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