Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Rest is Silence by James R. Benn

First Sentence:  I knew I was in trouble when the corner wheeled in the body, encased in a rubber sack, on a wobbly gurney with one wheel that wanted to go in any direction but straight.
It is April 1944; plans for D-Day have been made and the different branches of service and nationalities of military are rehearsing for the critical day.  However, an unidentified body has washed up on Slapton Sands, the beach replicating the landing site of Normandy Beach.  General Eisenhower sends Captain Billy Boyle and his partner, Lt. Kaz Kazimierz to investigate.
There are few authors whose voice is such that you aren’t so much reading a story but make you feel as though it is personally being told to you.  Benn has just such a voice.  Add to that his wonderful descriptions…”…Whitewashed stone cottages with thatched roofs sat close to the road, stark and bright beneath the slanting rays of the morning sun.  A pub, a couple of shops, and then we were back in the midst of green fields.” and you become part of the story.
Billy is a great character and one whose history and backstory you learn as a material part of the story.  The author does not assume readers have read previous books in the series, but those who have won’t find it something which slows down the pace of the story.
Although one appreciates the author including an actual historical even within the plot, what happened in this instance was horrible beyond words.  However, Benn is very good at conveying the magnitude of the tragedy without needing to include graphic details.  
Benn writes excellent, and occasionally poignant, dialogue…””Are you sure?” Kaz said,” t could be dangerous.  This man has killed before.”  “So have I, Piotr,” David said. “I have sent men crashing down from the sky in a ball of fire. I am the very fact of death.”  And yet, Benn’s wry humor does, occasionally, shine through…”Captain Boyle, although we are an informal household, that does not mean I make it a practice to socialize with staff.  It simply isn’t done, not in England.  Is it commonplace wherever you come from?”  “That would be Boston, ma’am, and I guess not.”  “Ah, Boston.  And there I thought you had a speech impediment….”
Benn’s character take life under his deft hand—not only Billy and Kaz, but David, the severely wounded pilot; Sir Rupert and Edgar, members of the family at whose house Billy and Kaz are staying, and Peter Wiley, the possible by-blow of Sir Rupert.  All this matters as herein lies the mystery within the mystery.  Benn also does an excellent job of incorporating real historical characters--Yogi Berra and Agatha Christie, including a wonderful scene of Billy discussing the situation with her—who are employed in an historically accurate manner.  He also, sadly, does an excellent job of conveying the staggeringly tragic results of a breakdown in communication. 
The Rest is Silence” is an excellent book, albeit painful to read at times.  Please don’t let that stop you from getting to know this book and series.  Not only are they great mysteries with wonderful characters, but good history lessons as well. 

THE REST IS SILENCE (Hist Mys-Cpt. Billy Boyle-England-1944) – Ex
Benn, James R. – 9th in series
Soho Crime, 2014

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