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When Hell Struck Twelve
Cover of When Hell Struck Twelve
When Hell Struck Twelve
In the 14th Billy Boyle mystery, US Army detective Billy Boyle and Lieutenant Kazimierz travel into the heart of Nazi-occupied Paris on a dangerous mission: ensure a traitor to the French Resistance unwittingly carries out a high-stakes deception campaign.

August, 1944: US Army detective Billy Boyle is assigned to track down a French traitor, code-named Atlantik, who is delivering classified Allied plans to German leaders in occupied Paris. The Resistance is also hot on his trail and out for blood, after Atlantik's previous betrayals led to the death of many of their members. But the plans Atlantik carries were leaked on purpose, a ruse devised to obscure the Allied army's real intentions to bypass Paris in a race to the German border. Now Billy and Kaz are assigned to the Resistance with orders to not let them capture the traitor: the deception campaign is too important. Playing a delicate game, the chase must be close enough to spur the traitor on and visible enough to insure the Germans trust Atlantik. The outcome of the war may well depend on it.
In the 14th Billy Boyle mystery, US Army detective Billy Boyle and Lieutenant Kazimierz travel into the heart of Nazi-occupied Paris on a dangerous mission: ensure a traitor to the French Resistance unwittingly carries out a high-stakes deception campaign.

August, 1944: US Army detective Billy Boyle is assigned to track down a French traitor, code-named Atlantik, who is delivering classified Allied plans to German leaders in occupied Paris. The Resistance is also hot on his trail and out for blood, after Atlantik's previous betrayals led to the death of many of their members. But the plans Atlantik carries were leaked on purpose, a ruse devised to obscure the Allied army's real intentions to bypass Paris in a race to the German border. Now Billy and Kaz are assigned to the Resistance with orders to not let them capture the traitor: the deception campaign is too important. Playing a delicate game, the chase must be close enough to spur the traitor on and visible enough to insure the Germans trust Atlantik. The outcome of the war may well depend on it.
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  • From the book Chapter One

    THE FALAISE GAP, NOR THERN FR ANCE
    August 1944

    The ground was a carpet of gray corpses. They lay on the hillside in scattered clumps and on the valley floor below like a river flowing in from hell itself. Blasted by shells and bombs, ripped and torn by strafing aircraft, remnants of the once-mighty German army in Normandy were dead or dying in droves as they tried to escape the trap closing in on them.
    Those desperate enough were struggling to flee the carnage, and the only way to do that was to drive us off this goddamn hill. Hill 262, according to the map. Two hundred and sixty-two meters high, it towered above the eastern road from Falaise and the green meadows littered with German dead, their field-gray uniforms coated in swirling dust and caked crimson with blood.
    Across the valley, somewhere to the south, General Patton's Third Army was advancing on a long end run to slam the door on the German escape route. Patton was drawing near, but not fast enough to stop the stream of surviving Krauts from fighting their way out of the slowly closing trap. The enemy was in a tight spot, backed up on the road for thirty miles or so to the west, stuck in a shrinking pocket enveloped by Allied armies. But the pocket wasn't zipped up tight, not yet. We were in the right place, but not strong enough to lock it up. Patton's tanks were strong enough, but too far distant.
    Even so, the valley was a shooting gallery filled with burning vehicles and men dying as they made their way forward on foot. Everything from long-range artillery to tank shells hit the valley floor with explosive bursts, churning up earth and igniting fuel tanks, plumes of yellow flame and black smoke dotting the roadway for miles. The rancid odor of death rose up on the blisteringly hot winds from the valley below, clawing at the back of my throat.
    "Anything, Captain Boyle?" Lieutenant Feliks Kanski asked, as I hunched over the radio in the back of my jeep, which was parked next to a shell-shattered tree trunk, camouflaged by tangled limbs and dying leaves. There were few safe places within the square mile we possessed on this hill, and I was glad of what cover it offered. I shook my head as I gave my call sign over and over again, broadcasting on the frequency we'd been assigned.
    "Keep at it, we need ammunition," Feliks said. His face was gaunt, his skin pale under the filth of three days on this hilltop. Sweat poured down his temples under the distinctive British tin pot helmet shading his eyes. Feliks was with the Polish 1st Armoured Division, as was everyone else on Hill 262.
    Well, not everyone. I was here, along with my buddy Kaz. Lieutenant Piotr Kazimierz, that is. Kaz was a member of the Polish army-in-exile, but he wasn't with Feliks's frontline unit. He and I were part of a different outfit. We worked for General Eisenhower and wore the shoulder patch of the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force. SHAEF. We'd arrived yesterday as part of a Canadian supply column that had run into bad luck in the form of a couple of Panther tanks who got us in their sights and took out all six trucks. We'd been in a jeep, and either they didn't spot us or felt we weren't worth a high explosive shell. After that, Hill 262 had been surrounded. Tanks and German paratroopers attacked on one side, fanatical SS troops on the other.
    I gave Feliks my canteen. There wasn't much left, but he needed it more than I did. He took a sip and handed it back as static crackled, and I finally heard a voice. In English, thankfully. It was the 4th Canadian Armoured, and they had good news. I acknowledged the...
About the Author-
  • James R. Benn is the author of the Billy Boyle World War II mysteries. The debut, Billy Boyle, was named one of five top mysteries of 2006 by Book Sense and was a Dilys Award nominee. A Blind Goddess was longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, The Rest Is Silence was a Barry Award nominee, and Solemn Graves was a Macavity Award nominee. Benn, a former librarian, splits his time between the Gulf Coast of Florida and Connecticut with his wife, Deborah Mandel.
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    July 1, 2019
    A World War II supersleuth slips into Paris to find a murderous French traitor. August, 1944. Though Gen. Patton's troops are driving the Nazis out of France, Germany is responding with desperate violence. In the thick of combat in northern France, Capt. Billy Boyle (Solemn Graves, 2018, etc.) wants to get back to Paris, still occupied by the Nazis. News of the recent Warsaw Ghetto Uprising has his sidekick, Lt. Piotr "Kaz" Kazimierz, worried sick about his family back in Poland. The pair learn of a Resistance leader known only by the code name "Atlantik" who's been betraying his French comrades to the Germans. Deducing his identity and finding him falls to Boyle, who narrates in a forceful first-person. The murder of Lt. Sean McKuras, an American who worked closely with the Resistance, gives the search even more urgency and pathos for the American duo. After the area surrounding the murder scene is secured, suspicion falls on Lucien Fassier, known as the Falcon, who's disappeared. Scenes of battle alternate with episodes in the hunt and cameo appearances by real wartime personages like Ernest Hemingway and Gen. Eisenhower, whom Boyle calls Uncle Ike because of his years of working in the general's office. At length the trail takes them to Paris, where their pursuit hits a pothole with the murder of Fassier. If he's not the traitor, then who is? As usual, Benn packs this installment with historical detail and writes with authority and punch.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 8, 2019
    In August 1944, Capt. Billy Boyle is working for General Eisenhower in the Office of Special Investigations of the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force, in Benn’s stellar 14th WWII mystery (after 2018’s Solemn Graves). As the Allies close in on the enemy forces trying to escape the Falaise Gap, Billy’s job is to interrogate prisoners to learn about German plans to defend Paris. Boyle soon figures out that his assignment is a ruse to make it appear that the Allies are desperate for information about Paris, a clear signal that an attack on that city is in the works, when Eisenhower actually intends to bypass Paris. Meanwhile, one of the captured soldiers they question reveals that a French partisan group’s leader, code-named Atlantik, has been betraying members of the Resistance. A briefing is planned that’s intended to flush out Atlantik, complete with a phony mortar attack, but it goes wrong, and two men, including an American officer, are murdered amid the chaos. The author makes the most of the tense and dramatic backdrop to this high-stakes whodunit. Benn has surpassed himself with this installment.

  • Library Journal

    August 23, 2019

    It's August 1944. Working for General Eisenhower under the command of Colonel Harding, Captain Billy Boyle is involved in organizing a phony strategy session with various factions of the French Resistance. The ruse is twofold--flush out a French traitor and deceive the Nazis regarding Allied movements toward Paris. During the planned confusion of a fake mortar attack, the map containing the bogus plan is stolen. Boyle and his Polish companion, Kaz, are sent to chase down the double agent, but discovering the mutilated body of their suspect, they realize they've been after the wrong man. Various clues and chance encounters send them into the streets of Paris in pursuit of the spy-turned-murderer. VERDICT The action starts on the first page and doesn't slow down, unfortunately sacrificing backstory in the process. Readers of World War II fiction and those who enjoy plot-driven stories will find much to love; however, Benn assumes a level of war knowledge that might leave some readers frustrated and confused. Purchase where previous volumes circulate, but new readers should start with the first in the series, Billy Boyle.--Vicki Briner, Broomfield, CO

    Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • The Day "Vastly entertaining, decidedly literary . . . Benn writes with a brutal and evocative skill about the grim and bloody reality of a situation and environment reflecting the cumulative cost of war."
  • Eyes on World Cultures "Fascinating characters and history-worthy plots...You won't be able to put it down till the last page!"
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James R. Benn
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