The Red Horse

Mysterious Book Report No. 425

by John Dwaine McKenna

If you’re a fan of WWII historical fiction, as the MBR is, and lament the passing of the late Philip Kerr, as the MBR does, we’d like to bring your attention to the long-running, meticulously well-researched and award-winning Billy Boyle series by author James R. Benn.

In his newest and just released 17th adventure, The Red Horse, (Soho Press, $27.95, 336 pages, ISBN 978-1-64129-100-2), it’s shortly after D-Day and Paris had just been liberated.  But Captain Billy Boyle—the former Boston homicide detective attached to General Eisenhower’s staff—and his friend, Lt. Piotr “Kaz” Kazimierz, are both casualties of the fight to retake the city.  Both men have been flown back to England, where they’re hospitalized at St. Albans, a secret convalescent hospital in the English countryside, where those who were engaged in clandestine warfare and espionage go to recuperate from their mental and physical wounds in a secure environment, where the secrets they carry will be safe from prying by the enemy.  Kaz has a life-threatening heart problem and Billy Boyle is hallucinating due to stress, plus mental and physical exhaustion from the overuse of methamphetamines to stay alert in the days leading up to the battle for the City of Lights, as Paris is called.  In addition Billy’s lover, Diana Seaton, a British espionage agent helping the French underground, has been taken by the SS and sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp for women, along with  Angelika, Kaz’s sister and a member of the Polish Underground.

Only a few days after arriving at St. Albans, Billy sees a senior intelligence officer and patient named Holland,  who’s about to be released back to active duty, fall to his death from the St. Albans clock tower.  The authorities are listing his death as a suicide . . . but Billy thinks he saw two people up there on the tower in the moments before Holland fell.  He can’t be certain though, because he was still hallucinating at the time.

Then, shortly after a medically induced sleep cure has Billy on the road to recovery, two more murders take place in quick succession and he’s in an almost impossible situation; trying to avoid suspicious hospital administrators and figure out who’s the killer, while not falling victim to him and, oh yeah, regaining his own health, in this twisted, suspenseful and surprising WWII mystery that’ll leave readers hunting for all the other novels in this outstanding series.  You won’t be disappointed!

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