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The First Wave Hardcover – September 1, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Press; First Edition edition (September 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1569474710
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569474716
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.3 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,034,348 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Benn's high-spirited second WWII mystery (after 2006's Billy Boyle), tough, earthy Boston cop turned army lieutenant Boyle hunkers down in a landing craft during the gripping first-wave attack to liberate Algeria in 1942. Once ashore, Boyle sets out on an intelligence mission to sort out the power struggle among Vichy French traitors, free French forces and German occupiers. Boyle is soon taken into custody and catches a glimpse of his ex-girlfriend Diana, a British spy on a similar mission. He returns to friendly territory in time to find that a sergeant's throat has been cut and vital morphine and penicillin supplies stolen. The enormous multinational cast makes it hard to determine a likely suspect, especially once Boyle uncovers a drug-smuggling network, American officers running poker parties and further murders of enlisted men, all somehow tied to a secret coded notebook. Historical figures like Adm. Jean Darlan give this lively story a bit of period flair. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Like Mark Frost in The Second Objective (2007), Benn builds his Billy Boyle series around little-known snippets of World War II history: Billy Boyle (2006) concerned a proposed Allied invasion of Norway, and this time the focus is on Eisenhower's plan to invade Vichy-held Algeria, anticipating a quick surrender by the French. It doesn't happen quite like that, and along the way, Boyle, a special investigator with Eisenhower's staff, finds himself trying to solve a series of murders connected to black marketeers and working to rescue the captured British spy with whom he fell in love in the first book. The unusual premises are the best part of this series and will be certain to appeal to WWII fiction fans, though Benn continues to struggle with the nuts and bolts of character development and plotting. The identity of the Allied traitor is obvious early on, and the interpersonal relationships still fall prey to the kind of melodrama associated with WWII tearjerkers. Still, Benn is improving from book to book, and as his storytelling skills inch closer to his feel for the historical moment, this series could come into its own. Ott, Bill

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) will be 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 am currently at work on 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

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By P. Herring on September 24, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In Benn's first novel, BILLY BOYLE, we met a carefree young soldier with a good heart but a tendency to look for the easy way. My husband and I both enjoyed the book very much, for the history and the likeable Billy.

In the second book, THE FIRST WAVE, Billy has seen things that cause him to grow up, in the same way that I picture my own father must have done when sent overseas in 1943.

The mystery is clearer and the characters better drawn in this book, so I liked it even better than the first one. I like Benn's writing style and the interesting tidbits the reader picks up about army life in WWII. I plan to order the third book as soon as I finish this review, and I recommend Benn's books to historical mystery buffs everywhere.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I skipped the first installment of the WWII-era "Billy Boyle" series based on the advice of my wife, who found the first book to be somewhat "junior high-school." She felt the writing was pitched at 12-14 year-old boys, sort of in the vein of the classic English "Boy's Own" adventure. Nonetheless, I picked up this second in the series due to its Algerian setting and my general fondness for crime stories set amidst wartime. I was pleasantly surprised to find it to be a lot more grim and gritty than the romantic period-style cover implies.

This entry kicks of with Lt. Boyle aboard a landing craft headed for the Algerian coast, as a leading element in Operation Torch. After being counseled by his Irish relatives in the Boston police to stay well out of the action in the war, he finagled a spot on the staff of his "Uncle Ike" Eisenhower helping out with special duties -- which nonetheless manage to put him in harm's way. (It is worth noting that this second Billy Boyle adventure reveals a great deal of information about the events of the first book, and anyone who has an interest in the series is well-advised to start with that one to avoid any spoilers.) Upon hitting the beach, Boyle and his superior are supposed to find some sympathetic French officers and get a Vichy garrison to surrender before any shooting starts.

This does not go well and the author does a very nice job outlining the various competing interests within the Vichy regime and how those complicated the Allied position. Soon Boyle's mission shifts to a more general attempt to determine enemy troop locations and strength. He then also gets caught up in the murder of an American supply sergeant, and a medical black market ring that somehow links U.S. personnel, Vichy forces, and even the SS.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ruth Greiner on August 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Now a combat-seasoned soldier, James R. Benn's Lt. Billy Boyle returns, in The First Wave, this time riding in a landing craft off the coast of Algeria. Stronger and braver than he thought, he's still "Mrs. Boyle's number one son," straight from South Boston, and still wondering how a nice Irish kid from Boston like him got in such a situation. And the situation is dangerous: he and his boss are on their way to rendezvous with a group of French soldiers, to assist them in undermining their Vichy leadership.
That mission is scrubbed, though, when they are intercepted by Vichy militia. After a brief incarceration, Billy and his boss are first detailed to collect information on enemy troop dispositions, and then to investigate a murder that seems to be connected with the theft and black marketing of precious medical supplies, including the newly developed "miracle drug," penicillin. At the same time, though, Billy discovers that his sweetheart, a Special Operations agent, has been taken prisoner, and his immediate impulse is to find her.
The plot is complex and multi-layered: it's November of 1942, and war threatens the world, made even more complicated by the political realities of North Africa and its population, and the Axis. Then there's Billy's immediate mission, to solve the murder of a supply sergeant and attendant theft of medical supplies. And finally there's his own personal mission, to rescue his love and revenge the cruel treatment she's received. But the moral universe is skewed here by war, and its imperative makes Billy's zeal for revenge a matter of self-indulgence; his "Uncle Ike," General Eisenhower in a cameo appearance, directs him to "leave things alone.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jeannie Mancini VINE VOICE on February 5, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Once again our Boston city cop turned World War II Private Investigator is thrown into the fray as bullets fly, bombs drop, and murder and mayhem toss Billy Boyle into the fires of chaos. Just back from a skirmish in Norway, his uncle General Ike Eisenhower hands Billy his second mission, allowing him a not so scenic tour of exotic Algiers. This version of the Kasbah was not what Billy had envisioned.

Arriving on desert shores with the First Wave of American troops, Billy and his commanding officer Major Sam Harding, immediately encounter a barrage of submachine guns pelleting them with lead that falls like rain. Greeted by both enemies and allies, Billy and Sam scamper off the beach into town, finding headquarters at a hospital outpost. They are there to assist Algiers and convince France to join the British Allies to fight against the Germans, but the Vichy French have agendas of their own and all is not as it should be among the world of sand and palm trees.

Not even an evening passes before the heat gets turned up and Billy is forced to play detective. Two murders, a drug heist, and his beloved Diana, who is an undercover special operative agent, gets kidnapped by a sadistic French officer taking prisoners for ransom.

This second installment brings the reader a volatile, high octane historical adventure mystery packed with blood curdling action, World War II history, romance, humor and a complex murder plot to rival any of the other top Noir style mystery novels. James Benn is a top-notch writer who has the talent to pull it all together with a blend of ingredients that can only win. With loveable characters you can do nothing but root for, and pages that turn for the reader like wildfire, I doubt any avid reader could put the Billy Boyle series down.
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