Thursday, August 11, 2016

James R. Benn, Rag and Bone

James R. Benn, Rag and Bone
Soho Crime, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-1569479964

The fifth Billy Boyle book finds Boyle being sent to London in December 1943 (where he is reunited with his old adversary Major Cosgrove) to investigate the murder of a Russian diplomat.  The dead man was shot after having his hands tied behind his back, a circumstance that will become of some importance.  This assignment also reunites him with his good friend Kaz, a Polish lieutenant (and a minor member of the rapidly-becoming-extinct Polish nobility) and with Big Mike, who in civilian life was a detective on the Detroit police force.
A number of factors complicate the investigation.  Kaz is involved in trying to get the US and UK governments to recognize Soviet responsibility for the slaughter of nearly 40,000 Polish soldiers (and civilians) after the partition of Poland between Germany and the USSR).  The Allies are reluctant to do so for fear of Russia pulling out of the war.  Billy’s investigation leads him to a (poetry-quoting) kingpin of the London black market, with all those attendant dangers.  And a member of the staff in the hotel in which the Polish resistance army is headquartered seems to be working for the Soviets.
Nothing seems to be going right, and Boyle is drinking way to much.  Kaz is arrested on suspicion of murder, and there seem to be two big deals going on that no one will talk about.  One involves the USAF and Russian air bases, and the other is a major black market scam (also involving the Russians.  And more people die.  (Kim Philby has a walk-on role as well.)
Meanwhile, Boyle’s love, Diana has gone an undercover mission somewhere for MI6—and apparently the Russians know about it.

Benn does the historical setting to perfection (as far as I can tell) and re-creates the atmosphere of wartime Britain extraordinarily well.  Boyle finally finds a path to the solution of the various crimes, both already committed and planned.  And 64 cases of canned peaches play a major role.  Another very good entry in a fine, fine series.


  1. Makes me want to go read the book!
    Thanks, Don.

  2. I can't believe that I didn't even get around to this series (first book--Billy Boyle--was published in 2009) until late last year. Reading them in order is actually sort of a good idea. (And thanks.)

  3. I read the first in 2014 (and also couldn't believe I'd left it that long). I've got a few to catch up, yet!