Thursday, June 3, 2021

Book Review: Evil for Evil by James R. Benn (Billy Boyle #4)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, decent mystery
Cons: Drowning in detail
The Bottom Line:
Must find stolen guns
Billy heads to Ireland
Good, too much detail

Billy’s Trip to Ireland Isn’t What He Expected

I’ve realized something while I was reading Evil for Evil, the fourth Billy Boyle World War II mystery.  I really want to like this series, but I seem to struggle with it.  I’m sure it is me.  And maybe it is this book, which I seemed to struggle with more than most books I read and more than earlier books in the series.

If you are new to the series, Billy Boyle is an Irish-American.  A Boston Cop, when World War II came to America, his family used their connection to General Eisenhower to keep him from being enlisted in the army.  Instead, he is assigned to Eisenhower, and heads up special investigations to try to keep the war effort on track.  Far from keeping him safe, that seems to put him in more danger.

In this book, Billy finds himself heading to Ireland.  As a good Irish Catholic, he has some predetermined ideas about the country his family is from even if he’s never been there before.  So it is with some trepidation that he takes on his assignment.  Fifty Browning Automatic Rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition have been stolen from an US Army base in Northern Ireland.  It is suspected that the IRA is behind it, and the Boyles have always supported the IRA in their efforts against the Protestants in Northern Ireland.  However, it is believed that the IRA might be planning to turn these guns over to Germany, so Billy knows he needs to find them before they fall into the hands of the enemy.  When the bodies begin piling up, Billy begins to face truths about Ireland he never considered before.  Can he find the guns?

On the one hand, this book was the interesting combination of history and mystery I’ve always enjoyed.  I felt like I was transported back to World War II era and enjoyed seeing again what life was like in a different part of the world.  It was interesting to see the struggle in Ireland brought to life, and I appreciated that the nuances of the conflict were brought out in detail on both sides.

The mystery itself is good as well.  Naturally, Billy finds himself involved in much more than he bargained for, but he sifts through those red herrings and reaches the logical conclusion.  I was a step ahead of him at times and a step behind him at others, but I was never confused once Billy explained what was really happening.

Likewise, I love the characters.  Billy is growing in each book, and I love seeing him mature.  Unfortunately, we don’t see much of the supporting cast here since Billy is pretty much on his own.  But the new characters more than make up for that and help bring the story to life.

With the previous books, I’ve commented on the other the top action scenarios that Billy finds himself in.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that those were toned down for this book.  Don’t misunderstand, there is plenty of danger and suspense, but it more realistic.

So what’s my struggle?  The books feel long.  At times, the story gets bogged down in the details – the details of Billy’s surroundings or the details of history.  These books always take me longer to read than I’m used to, and I know I have to mentally prepare myself for that when I pick up one of them.  That’s why it might just be me and my expectations of how quickly I think I “should” be getting through the book.  Or maybe it really could use some trimming.

As I said, there is much to love.  And I want to see what happens next to Billy because I really like the characters.  But I feel like he was drowning in details in Evil for Evil.

Here are the rest of the Billy Boyle Mysteries.

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