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Billy Boyle was a detective in the Boston Police Department when the US entered World War II. He came from the stereotypical cop Irish Catholic family. His family mistrusted the English. His father and uncle wanted him to serve their country, but want him safe. To do this they get Billy a posting with Uncle Ike, an obscure brigadier general, assigned to the General Staff in Washington, DC.
“When Hell Struck Twelve: A Billy Boyle WWII Mystery,” by James Benn, is the fourteenth novel about the results of this pairing.
Uncle Ike was Dwight Eisenhower. Shortly after Billy joins Eisenhower’s staff, Eisenhower gets tagged as Commanding General European Theater of Operations. Uncle Ike is delighted to have Billy, a trained detective, around. Eisenhower needs someone for sensitive (and frequently dangerous) confidential investigations. Billy finds himself in a world of military intelligence, counterintelligence, and espionage. He becomes Ike’s go-to guy when the general needs of unquestioned loyalty for a quiet look.
By the time the events of “When Hell Struck Twelve” take place, it is August 1944. Billy and his colleague and close friend, Lieutenant Piotr Kazimirerz are interrogating German POWs in Normandy. Kaz is a member of the Polish Army-in-Exile.
The two are assigned to track down Atlantik, the code name of a French traitor working for the Germans. Boyle’s superiors do not know who Altantik is but suspect the traitor is a leader in one of the competing French resistance units.
They bait the trap with phony plans for the Allied liberation of Paris. The plans will be discussed at a meeting with French resistance leaders. Boyle has to identify who tries to steal the plans and hopefully capture the person. Eisenhower plans to bypass Paris, so it does not matter if the Germans get these. If they do, they will end up sending troops to defend a spot the Allies are not attacking.
The first part goes as planned. Atlantik reveals himself. Then things go wrong. Atlantik escapes with the plans. Billy and Kaz set off in chase, one step behind him. Then Allied plans suddenly change, and Allied forces are now heading to Paris. The path to be used is close to those in the formerly bogus plans.
A worthy addition to an excellent series, “When Hell Struck Twelve” offers fast-paced adventure tied realistically into actual events and people. It is fun and entertaining.
“When Hell Struck Twelve: A Billy Boyle WWII Mystery,” by James Benn, Soho Crime, 2019, 360 pages $27.95 (hardcover)
This review was written by Mark Lardas who writes at Ricochet as Seawriter. Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.Published in