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Blood Alone: A Billy Boyle World War II Mystery    by James R. Benn order for
Blood Alone
by James R. Benn
Order:  USA  Can
Soho, 2008 (2008)

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* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

In this compelling historical novel, the third in James R. Benn's superb Billy Boyle World War II mystery series, the narrator-protagonist Billy Boyle wakes up in a field hospital in Sicily where he is suffering from assorted wounds - presumably combat related - and a bewildering loss of memory.

While Boyle navigates through a dangerous battlefront that is swarming with allied forces, German soldiers, Italian fascists, and Sicilian freedom fighters, the obvious dangers faced by Boyle are easily trumped by the baffling mystery of what really happened to him in the recent past and why he is now in Sicily.

A monogrammed handkerchief, an enigmatic handwritten note, and an uneasy friendship with a Sicilian physician combine to lead Boyle eventually to some surprising discoveries about himself and his purpose: For example, he recalls that he is an Army lieutenant, a former policeman from Boston, a cousin of General Eisenhower, and a special investigator dispatched on a secret mission.

The secret mission, though, has some disturbing dimensions involving American mobsters, the Sicilian mafia, murderous soldiers, and more than a few ruthless entrepreneurs who are determined to score handsome financial rewards in the midst of the absurd folly and obscene carnage of war.

Exciting and illuminating - and based in part on actual historical events - Benn's Blood Alone will entertain readers fond of imaginative battlefield mysteries. My enthusiastic recommendation for Benn's latest offering, though, has one caveat: If possible, to maximize your reading enjoyment of Blood Alone, read the three Billy Boyle World War II mysteries in sequence, beginning with the first (Billy Boyle) and going on to the second (The First Wave), because each ensuing novel builds dramatically upon crucial antecedents that you will not want to miss.

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