Blue Madonna by James R Benn Reviewed
1942, war has been declared and Billy Boyle is a Second Lieutenant fresh from Officers’ Candidate School and on his way to England. He’s never been outside his native and beloved Boston where he serves as one of the youngest and newest police detectives. Thanks to his mother’s meddling and a distant family relationship, Billy is assigned to a general’s command thinking this will keep him safe. But “Uncle Ike” has different plans for Billy. General Eisenhower, the shirt-tail relation, creates the Office of Special Investigations which handles crimes that need to be solved and kept very quiet. Working with Billy in OSI is Kaz, a.k.a Lieutenant Piotr August Kazimierz of the Polish Army-in-Exile or the Baron and Staff Sargent Mike Miecznikowski, known to all as Big Mike.
BLUE MADONNA, the eleventh book in the series, opens in late May, 1944 days before June 6, D-Day. Billy is hustled from his quarters, slapped in handcuffs and taken to a special base in Glouchester to face court-martial. This has to be a mistake, at best, or one of the worst practical jokes on record. Sadly, for now Captain Boyle, this all too real. In less than six hours Billy has been accused, tried, convicted and sentenced, busted down to private and given 3 months hard labor. Not even the mention of connections at the highest level, something both Billy and the General have worked to keep private, will stave off the inevitable.
Stripped of rank and on his way to the stockade, Billy is sidetracked to a small room and given an option to hard labor. It seems there is a large black market gang operating in England, stealing supplies that are pouring in to England, supplies that will be sorely needed by the troops on D-Day and beyond. All Billy needs to do is make contact with suspected members of the cartel already in the stockade and bring the nefarious black marketers to a halt. The black market cannot exist without the help of both British and American soldiers looking to make money from the war. To ensure the loyalty of the American soldier working with the gang, they have kidnapped his cousin, also a soldier. A plan is put into place for Billy to escape after making contact with the felons while being transported from the stockade, find their safe house and rescue the soldier being used as a pawn. Simple, right? Wrong! Nothing could be that simple. When the soldier is finally rescued, Billy, Kaz and Big Mike learn they must now go into occupied France to rescue the downed and more than likely captured cousin, who has all the information that high command desperately needs.
Hours before the invasion Billy and his team are dropped behind enemy lines in occupied France ready to make contact with the small band of SOE agents and the French resistance. However, in the past months many of the SOE teams have been compromised, captured or killed. There are no assurances that the Billy and his team will be able to make contact. A top radio operator needs to be assigned and one of the best is the brother of one of the biggest crooks in south England. Add a dash of romance, among the SOE agents the team is to rendezvous with is Billy’s love, Diana. No one has heard from the section for some time.
The Billy Boyle series is fast paced and well written. From first meeting the characters are fully realized. It’s amazing to watch the shadow story weave among the facts of WWII that we’ve all learned in school. I generally don’t pay attention to blurbs on book covers, however I agree with every one of them in this case. This is a well-crafted series and worth your time, but I would caution you, it is addictive.
Penny Halle is one of the organizers of Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee and was an amazing librarian.