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Rag and Bone (Billy Boyle World War II Mystery Book 5) Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Length: 321 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly
"A Criminal Magic" by Lee Kelly
THE NIGHT CIRCUS meets THE PEAKY BLINDERS in Lee Kelly's new magical realism, crossover novel and casts a spell of magic, high stakes and intrigue against the backdrop of a very different Roaring Twenties. Learn more

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. "Uncle Ike" (aka General Eisenhower) personally pins silver first lieutenant bars on Billy Boyle in Benn's stellar fifth WWII mystery (after 2009's Evil for Evil). In December 1943, Billy's leave with his British girlfriend in Italy is cut short. Orders send him to London to look into a Soviet officer's shooting murder, which may be retaliation for the execution of thousands of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest that's been blamed on the Germans but probably was committed by Russians. Since the Soviets are allies, the investigation requires the utmost sensitivity. Billy's loyalties are tested because his friend who works for the Polish government in exile, Lieutenant Kazimierz, is a prime suspect. Benn excels at depicting the impact of war on London--the bricks from bombed buildings piled neatly on the streets, families living in Tube stations, "the odor of the Blitz." Destruction aside, Billy never forgets that "Even in the midst of war, murder is unacceptable."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Billy Boyle, special investigator with General Eisenhower’s staff, is not nearly as naive as he was at the beginning of World War II. So when he’s assigned to find the murderer of a Russian security officer in London during the buildup to D-Day, he recognizes that the stability of the Allied operation could hinge on this politically charged case. The Polish contingent, including Billy’s chum, Lieutenant “Kaz” Kazmierz, is incensed over evidence that implicates the Russians in the murder of hundreds of Polish prisoners in the so-called Katyn Massacre, while the Allies—needing to keep the goodwill of the Soviets—are content with blaming the Nazis for the killings. Could Kaz have killed the Russian as partial payback? The British investigators think so, but Billy doesn’t buy it. Benn shrewdly combines the political cat-and-mouse game with the murder investigation, offering a fascinating glimpse of the wartime intelligence world (Allies spying on Allies) and how it laid the groundwork for the Cold War. In addition, his portrayals of the invdividual lives affected by the global machinations reflect an almost Graham Greene–like feel for nuance. Definitely one of the best in a steadily improving series. --Bill Ott

Product Details

  • File Size: 2450 KB
  • Print Length: 321 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Crime (September 1, 2010)
  • Publication Date: September 1, 2010
  • Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004HW7DYS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #89,500 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Writing the Billy Boyle World War II mystery series (published by the wonderful folks at Soho Press) has brought me an immense amount of joy. I've gotten to meet people in person and online from all over the world and hear their reactions, feedback, and most importantly, their own stories.

In addition to the Billy Boyle series, two stand-alone books have been published by E-Reads. On Desperate Ground is a WWII thriller in the grand tradition of Jack Higgins, and Souvenir is an exploration of memory, identity, sorrow and loss during the lifetime of a veteran of the Second World War.

My idea for a historical mystery series set within the Allied High Command during the Second World War began with the first title, 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. In the fourth installment, Evil For Evil, Billy Boyle voyages to his native Ireland. The fifth book in the series deals with the infamous Katyn Massacre of Polish Officers by the Soviets, and how the uncovering of that crime affected the war, especially Polish-Americans and the Poles in exile in England. It is titled Rag and Bone (from the Yeats poem).

Number six, titled A Mortal Terror, is set in southern Italy and within the Anzio Beachhead, where Billy tracks down the Red Heart Killer, who is targeting officers of increasingly senior rank. Mortal terror also refers to combat fatigue and the terrible effects of prolonged exposure to the not only combat but the rigors of winter in the mountains.

Death's Door (#7) takes Billy into occupied Rome, to investigate the murder of an American monsignor within the walls of the neutral Vatican City. In the 8th installment, A Blind Goddess, Billy is back in England prior to D-Day and working to clear a black GI of murder charges.

The Rest is Silence (#9) was released on 9/2/14 and features the disaster surrounding Operation Tiger, a D-Day training event at Slapton Sands in southwest England that went terribly wrong. I have completed the tenth Billy Boyle novel, which will take him to distant waters in the South Pacfic.

I live in Hadlyme, Connecticut, with my wife Deborah Mandel, a psychotherapist who offers many insights into the motivations of my characters, a good critical read, and much else. Our dog Ranger lives with us. We have two sons, Jeff and Ben, and seven grandchildren (Camille, Claudia, Emma, Luke, Nathaniel, Noah, Oliver).

I'm a graduate of the University of Connecticut and received my MLS degree from Southern Connecticut State University. I am a member of the Mystery Writers of America, and the Author's Guild. I worked in the library and information technology fields for over thirty-five years before retiring to work full-time.

I've learned two valuable lessons since I started writing which have helped me greatly. The first is a quote from Oscar Wilde, who said "The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of one's pants to a chair." The second is from novelist Rachel Basch, who told me "the story has to move down, as well as forward." Both sound simple. Neither is.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Rag and Bone" is author James Benn's fifth novel in his Billy Boyle series. Boyle, a Boston cop drafted into the US army during WW2, is saved from front-line duty by his relationship to an American general, who pulls some strings in book #1 and places Billy on his staff as a sort-of "personal cop". The general - "Uncle Ike" to Billy - is, of course, Dwight Eisenhower.

Ike is only one of the real-life characters Benn blends in with his fictional ones. Billy, from a family of smart Irish cops, finds himself involved in crimes from Ireland to north Africa. His "solve rate" is pretty good because he keeps returning, book after book. Benn's series writing is not always even. I've liked some books slightly better than others, but in this one, Benn turns in five-star writing.

Billy's job in "Rag and Bone" is to solve a murder of a Russian diplomat in London in 1944. About this time, news of the Katyn Massacre, the murder of 22,000 Polish officers by the Russians in mid-1940, has been leaking out. The Russians have blamed the Germans (who actually found the bodies in the Katyn forest near Smolensk) but the Poles know the truth about Soviet responsibility and are trying to get the British and the Americans to acknowledge the Russian complicity. Not so easy, as the Soviet Union is an ally of the British and the Americans and are fighting the Germans on the Eastern Front. The Soviets are keeping the Germans busy on in the east while the allies are planning the invasion of France, to make a two-front war for the Germans.

Politics, history, and patriotism all combine to make Billy's job difficult. More Russian diplomats are killed, smuggling-rings are exposed, and everyone's allegiance is suspect. Benn gives an excellent accounting of civilian life in England as well as military maneuvers of the war. This is Benn's best book so far. And an altogether excellent read.
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Format: Paperback
I really like the period setting for this Billy Boyle series and, in general, I think the writing/editing is getting better from one installment to the next. Within "Rag and Bone", for example, the lead character seems to take on some gravitas as the story progresses. The plot is imaginative and rather original--wartime political stresses between the Allies (especially with the Soviets) with a plausible overlay of garden variety crime.

While, overall, this is an enjoyable whodunit, there are still some problems with plot flow (overburdened with convoluted twists and turns), inexplicable dream and poetic inserts and the continuing problem of the protagonist's too often lightweight character. Author James Benn has shown himself capable of some really fine riffs here and I hope as the series pushes on toward an end to the war, these distractions will be eliminated.
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Format: Hardcover
After enjoying the first book in the series, "Billy Boyle," so much, I've been apprehensive each time a new one comes out, lest it not meet the high standards of the previous ones. Not to worry. Each one gets better as Benn becomes a more assured writer. The background, as always, is well researched and the plot lines interesting.
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Format: Hardcover
A couple of weeks ago, the Russian Parliament acknowledged that country's responsibility for the slaughter of more than 20,000 Polish officers at the Katyn Forest early on during World War II over the protests of the Communist Party. Katyn plays a prominent role in this novel, the fifth in the Billy Boyle World War II mysteries. When a Soviet officer is found murdered on a London street, hands tied behind his back and shot in the back of the head as were those murdered at Katyn, Billy is sent ahead to London from Italy by his Uncle Ike to solve the murder just days before the General and his staff were to arrive to set up Supreme Headquarfters for the invasion of France.

While the Poles in London, especially Billy's friend Kaz, have proof of the Russian complicity in the massacre, it was not in the interests of the British or American governments to upset the delicate balance in the wartime alliance, which depended on the pressure of the eastern front to offset the German defenses of the west. Now a first Lieutenant, Billy has to tread a fine line between all elements to find the killer and seek justice, while saving his friend, who is Scotland Yard's number one suspect.

As usual, the author uses and depicts history to set the stage for an intriguing murder mystery, with cameo performances by Uncle Dwight D. Eisenhower, FDR and Winston Churchill, among others, carrying forth the series from North Africa to Sicily and Italy to blitzed Britain, just before the Normandy invasion. Written with a blend of fact and fiction, the novel is a first-class crime novel, transcending the vivid scenes of Luftwaffe bombings, war-time shortages and deprivations, and is recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
A lieutenant attached to Eisenhower's staff as an investigator, Billy Boyle, former Boston cop, makes his fifth appearance in January 1944 as the murder of a Soviet officer in London threatens to derail the Allies' fragile alliance with Russia. The victim was a security officer, a member of the dreaded NKVD, and Boyle is immediately caught in a conflict.

His friend "Kaz", Lieutenant Kazmierz of the Polish government in exile, proves to be a suspect and not a quiet one. Kaz is determined to prove that the Russians massacred thousands of Polish military officers in the Katyn Forest, a war crime that the Russians are pinning on the Germans.

Boyle, pining for his English girlfriend (on assignment behind enemy lines), puts the pieces together while juggling his loyalties. The Allied brass will go to any lengths to keep the Russians on board against the Nazis and Poland is an acceptable price.

Benn succeeds in depicting the politics and ruthless pragmatism, while giving the reader a real sense of wartime London. " `The remains of homes and shops,' Kaz said....He trailed his fingers along the bricks, and I found I had to touch them as well. They were rough to the touch, and the smell of years of London's coal smoke, the grit of collapsed buildings, and the soot from raging fires lingered on my hand. The odor of the Blitz."

The story's background - the Katyn massacre and the events surrounding it - is factual and Benn's knowledge of wartime London, the black market and the crime bosses affiliated with it, the mood of the people, and the soldier's fatalistic but heady urge to seize the moment, give the well-paced story depth and character.
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