“A Mortal Terror” (Billy Boyle World War II Mystery Series #6)

By James R. Benn

Soho Press Inc., $25,  336 pages

Who is this author?

James R. Benn, who lives in Hadlyme, has three loves: libraries, historical research and mysteries. Director of Godfrey Memorial Library in Middletown, he published his first “Billy Boyle” mystery in 2006, creating a brash young Boston detective turned military private eye for his uncle — who just happens to be Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower — during World War II.

Benn once told me in an interview: “For each book, I focus on a true, but little-known event, and wrap a fictional mystery around it to illuminate history and the effect on those who lived through it.” If that’s a formula, it’s working well for him. You can learn more at www.jamesrbenn.com.

What is this book about?

Soldiers are always at risk of dying, but in “A Mortal Terror,” they’re being done in by a sociopathic serial killer, not enemy forces. Lt. Billy Boyle is stationed in Italy during the bloody invasion of Anzio and is fighting a private war with a mysterious killer who is leaving red heart playing cards on the bodies of Allied officers and seems to be climbing the ranks with each new victim. Is the killer after Gen. Eisenhower? Subplots involve Billy’s girlfriend, Diana, who is a spy; his brother Danny, just recruited into the infantry; and the tragedy of combat fatigue, now called post-traumatic stress disorder.

Why you’ll like it:

Benn has captured a national audience for his series. You don’t have to begin with the first one to enjoy the newest, though new fans will be happy there are more Boyle books available. Here Benn combines an intricate plot, lots of action and appealing characters, and while he supplies plenty of clues, he doesn’t make it easy to figure out who the killer is. The book also offers a vivid history of World War II for those readers too young to remember it and those old enough to never forget it.

What others say about it:

“Benn does a superb job of simultaneously capturing the personal anguish of war and creating a splendid adventure novel,” says Library Journal.

“Solid wartime adventure, well grounded in historical detail, and boasting a challenging mystery to boot,” says Booklist.

When is it available?

You can find “A Mortal Terror” now at the library.

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