Saturday, September 26, 2009

"Evil for Evil"

James R. Benn is the author of the Billy Boyle World War II series, historical mysteries set within the Allied High Command during the Second World War. The series began with Billy Boyle, which takes place in England and Norway in 1942. The second, The First Wave, carries on a few months later during the Allied invasion of French Northwest Africa. The third, Blood Alone, continues the story through the Allied invasion of Sicily.

Benn applied the Page 69 Test to Evil for Evil, the latest novel in the series, and reported the following:
Page 69 finds Billy Boyle meeting District Inspector Hugh Carrick for the first time, and sparks fly in their exchange, which encapsulates the chasm which separates Protestant and Catholic in Northern Ireland.

It’s November 1943, and Billy has been sent to Ulster to investigate the theft of fifty automatic weapons from a US Army depot. Suspicion falls on the Irish Republican Army, possibly in league with German agents, with the aim of disrupting the buildup of American troops training in Northern Ireland for the invasion of Europe. But Billy’s family has a history of supporting the IRA, and the family history handed down from his grandfather—who left Ireland as a child during the Famine years—causes Billy to have little sympathy for British rule in the North.

He and Inspector Carrick, an Irish Protestant, are ordered to cooperate in the investigation. Their first encounter does not go well, as Carrick has just returned from the funeral of a constable shot from ambush by the IRA. Billy tries to give his condolences, which are not appreciated.

“I am sorry, District Inspector. I’m a policeman myself, or was. In Boston, before the war. The death of a brother officer is a serious matter.”

“Serious? To a Catholic from Boston? I understand the IRA murder squads enjoy a great deal of support from the Irish settled in Boston.”

“How do you know I’m Catholic? Maybe I’m an atheist.”

“Do not joke with me, Lieutenant Boyle. Your name tells me what I need to know, and your city tells me the rest. It’s in the blood with you from across the border, whether you’ve gone to America or come north with a pistol to shoot a good man in the back.” His words spilled out with the Irish accent I was used to, but with a harder, clipped edge. The only part of him that moved was his lips.

“Perhaps we should talk another time, District Inspector. I’m sure passions are running high after the funeral.”

“Passions, Lieutenant Boyle? We have no time for passions. We have murderers to apprehend. We have a war to fight. Perhaps you allow yourself to wallow in passions, but personally I find them distracting.”

“Passion is what usually leads to murder, DI Carrick.”

Billy finds that for many, including himself, much is “in the blood.” Page 69 is instructive in that it sets the stage for everything Billy has to overcome, in his own heart and mind as much as in others, to solve a murder that threatens his own loyalties and beliefs.
Learn more about the book and author at James R. Benn's website.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue