Lieutenant Billy Boyle wakes up in a field hospital, wounded and with no memory of who he is or what the hell he’s doing in the middle of the American invasion of Sicily. He regains the vertical just in time to be conscripted into the front lines of Colonel Jim Gavin’s 505th Division paratroopers, who are barely holding their own against a German division of Tiger tanks. From there events, as they say, progress, all across the unforgiving Sicilian countryside, involving a conspiracy to make a killing forging currency, which may or may not include the Mafia, who may be a little conflicted when it comes to which side they’re on. All this and a cameo appearance by Bill Mauldin. It doesn’t get any better than that.
This is the third in the Billy Boyle series, featuring the aforesaid Billy, whose day job was a detective in the Boston P.D. before his mother starting combing through their relatives to find Billy a nice quiet job that would keep him on this side of the Atlantic for the duration of the war. The relative she settles on is Uncle Ike, also known as General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Uncle Ike puts Billy to work as his very own special investigator, which in book 1 (Billy Boyle) has Billy invading Norway pretty much single-handedly and which in book 2 (First Wave) has Billy going ashore in Algiers ahead of everyone else in the US Army.
Billy, dedicated to a quiet life, who had only just made detective before being snatched in the maelstrom of world war by his uncle, is a reluctant hero, but
Plenty of guys were going to die in this war; there was no cause to murder one more.
and that essential decency, that stubborn determination to see justice done, that’s the heart of Billy’s character.
By Blood Alone, Billy realizes something else about himself:
I was bleeding, on the run from mobsters and MPs, and driving like a maniac to rendezvous with my friends in a stolen, shot-up jeep. I loved it. I had been wondering who I was only days ago. This was who: I was on the hunt, enjoying the chase, living by my wits. Living or dying. That sobered me up. Then I thought it was funny again and laughed, a mad cackle that ended as I coughed and hawked up road dust.
In the meantime, we get a front-row, mud-chewing, dust-eating seat to history. Benn’s author’s notes are great, too. Well worth reading, I’ve already got the next three on my to-read shelf.