Monday, July 18, 2016

James R. Benn, Blood Alone

James R. Benn, Blood Alone
Soho Press, 2008
ISBN 978-1-56947-516-4
Also available as an ebook

“Blood alone moves the wheels of history.”  Benito Mussolini, 1914.  The epigraph of the book, and a remark quoted later by one of the characters, who comments to the effect that we should have been listening.

Billy Boyle is back in this third book in the series, which begins with his regaining consciousness in a field hospital in Sicily, but without knowing who he is, where he is, or why.  As his memory returns (slowly), he finds himself being sheltered by a somewhat crooked supply sergeant and being dragged off to the front lines.  He realizes, as his memory returns, that he had been sent to Sicily before the invasion, based on information that there was a scheme to steal occupation scrip.  Things are not quite so simple as that, however, and Billy finds himself caught between his responsibilities to the Army, his gratitude to a Sicilian doctor who has helped him discover the nature and extent of his memory loss, and the local mafia.

Benn deftly weaves the events of the war (most of which are very accurate depictions of what the war was like, and what Sicily was, and in some ways is, like) into Billy’s narration of his investigation.  Along the way, he learns some things about himself (including remembering a piece of advice given to him by his father—“Remember who you are—advice that he comes to realize has a deeper meaning that he had thought), about the differing meanings of loyalty, and about how he has chosen to live.

Benn maintains the tension nicely, and the resolution fits well into everything we have learned.  He incorporates real people (including the principal Mafioso) and events neatly into the story, and makes the emotional implications, and costs, of everyone’s actions direct and forceful.  There’s much more to come in the series (there are at least 10  books so far), and Benn shows no signs yet of faltering. 

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