Coming from the American author James R. Benn, the Billy Boyle series is a historical series set within the Allied High Command during the Second World War. Back home in Southie, twenty-two-year-old Irish American Billy Boyle barely made a detective when war was declared. He then joined the staff of a general married to her distant cousin.
That general turned out to be Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose headquarters were in London, which was undergoing the blitz, and he made Billy his personal investigator. Billy must expose spies, investigate murders, recover stolen goods, and stop all sorts of criminals that disrupt the war efforts.
How to read the Billy Boyle Series in Order?
Every entry in the Billy Boyle book series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters as well as the war itself evolve from one novel to the other.
- Billy Boyle – Billy is dispatched to the seat of the Norwegian government in exile. Operation Jupiter, the impending invasion of Norway, is being planned, but it is feared that there is a German spy amongst the Norwegians. Billy doubts his own abilities, with good reason. A theft and two murders test his investigative powers.
- The First Wave – Lieutenant Billy Boyle reluctantly accompanies Major Samuel Harding, his boss, in the first boat to land on the shores of Algeria during the Allied invasion. Their task is to arrange the surrender of the Vichy French forces. But there is dissension between the regular army, the local militia, and De Gaulle’s Free French. American black marketeers in league with the enemy divert medical supplies to the Casbah, leading to multiple murders that Billy must solve while trying to rescue the girl he loves, a captured British spy.
- Blood Alone – Billy Boyle awakens in a field hospital in Sicily with amnesia. In his pocket is a yellow silk handkerchief embroidered with the initial L. Gradually he remembers: he has been sent ashore in advance of the troops with this token from Lucky Luciano to contact the head of the Sicilian Mafia. But he must also thwart a murderous band of counterfeiters of Army scrip led by Vito Genovese.
- Evil for Evil – Fifty Browning Automatic Rifles have been stolen from a US Army base in Northern Ireland. His “uncle” Ike Eisenhower sends Billy to recover the weapons, which might be used in a German-sponsored IRA uprising. Bodies begin to accumulate as Billy finds unexpected challenges to his Boston-Irish upbringing and IRA sympathies. There are rogues on both sides, he learns.
- Rag and Bone – Billy Boyle is assigned to London to investigate the murder of a Russian security officer in the buildup to D-Day. The Polish contingent is incensed over evidence that implicates the Russians in the murder of hundreds of Polish prisoners in the so-called Katyn Forest Massacre, and Scotland Yard thinks this murder of a Soviet officer may be a revenge killing-perhaps perpetrated by Billy’s friend Kaz, a Polish baron in exile. But Billy doesn’t buy it.
- A Mortal Terror – Two officers from the American troops stationed in Caserta, Italy, not far from Naples, have been found murdered. The MOs are completely different, and it seems like the officers had no connection to each other, but one frightening fact links the murders: each body was discovered with a single playing card: the Lieutenant, the ten of hearts; the Captain, the jack of hearts. The message seems to be clear–if the murderer isn’t apprehended, the higher ranks will be next.
- Death’s Door – Lieutenant Billy Boyle could have used a rest after his last case, but when his girlfriend, Diana Seaton, a British spy, goes missing in the Vatican, where she was working undercover, he insists on being assigned to a murder investigation there so he can try to help her.
- A Blind Goddess – March, 1944: Billy Boyle, back in England after a dangerous mission in Italy, is due for a little R&R, and also a promotion. But Boyle doesn’t get to kick back and enjoy his leisure time because two upsetting cases fall into his lap at once.
- The Rest is Silence – When an unidentified corpse washes ashore at Slapton Sands on England’s southern coast, US Army Captain Billy Boyle and his partner, Lieutenant Piotr “Kaz” Kazimierz, are assigned to investigate. The Devonshire beach is the home to Operation Tiger, the top-secret rehearsal for the approaching D-Day invasion of Normandy, and the area is restricted; no one seems to know where the corpse could have come from.
- The White Ghost – 1943: In the midst of the brutal, hard-fought Solomon Islands campaign between the Allies and the Japanese forces, Billy Boyle receives an odd assignment: he’s sent by the powerful Kennedy family to investigate a murder in which PT skipper (and future president) Jack Kennedy has been implicated. The victim is a native coastwatcher, an allied intelligence operative, whom Kennedy discovered on the island of Tulagi with his head bashed in. That’s Kennedy’s story, anyhow.
- Blue Madonna – May 1944: Billy Boyle is convicted on spurious charges of black market dealings stripped of his officer’s rank, reduced to private, and sentenced to three months’ hard labor. But Billy is given an opportunity: if he takes on the incredibly dangerous mission of investigating a set of murders at the Allies’ safe house in the French town of Chaumont, he can avoid his punishment.
- The Devouring – Europe, 1944: Billy Boyle and his friend Lieutenant Piotr “Kaz” Kazimierz are sent to neutral Switzerland to work with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), investigating Swiss banks that are laundering looted Nazi gold.
- Solemn Graves – July, 1944, a full month after D-Day. Billy, Kaz, and Big Mike are assigned to investigate a murder close to the front lines in Normandy. An American officer has been found dead in a manor house serving as an advance headquarters outside the town of Trévières. Major Jerome was far from his own unit, arrived unexpectedly, and was murdered in the dark of night.
- When Hell Struck Twelve – August, 1944: 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 Red Horse – Just days after the Liberation of Paris, Billy and Kaz are brought to Saint Albans Convalescent Hospital in the English countryside. There, British Major Cosgrove asks Billy for help, unofficially, in solving what he thinks was the murder of a British agent. The convalescent hospital is really a secret installation for those in the world of clandestine warfare to recover from wounds, physical and emotional. Some are allowed to leave; others are deemed security risks and are detained there. When a second body is found, it is evident that a killer is at work in this high-security enclave.
- Road of Bones – It’s September 1944, and the US is poised to launch Operation Frantic, a shuttle-bombing mission to be conducted by American aircraft based in Great Britain, southern Italy, and three Soviet airfields in the Ukraine. Tensions are already high between the American and Russian allies when two intelligence agents-one Soviet, one American-are found dead at Poltava, one of the Ukrainian bases. Billy is brought in to investigate, and this time he’s paired, at the insistence of the Soviets, with a KGB agent who has his own political and personal agenda.
- From the Shadows – Southern France, 1944: What should be a simple assignment with a Special Operations Executive officer gets complicated quickly as Billy navigates the tensions between Resistance groups in the process of gathering information on Vichy officials and other collaborators who escaped with the retreating Germans. Unexpectedly, the SOE officer has many enemies in the Resistance, linked to the failed Vercors uprising.
- Proud Sorrows – Norfolk, England, November 1944: US Army Captain Billy Boyle is finally on leave, and is settling into a peaceful rest at the country estate of Sir Richard Seaton, the father of Billy’s British lover, Diana. Unfortunately, Billy’s leave is cut short when a crashed German bomber resurfaces off the coast with the corpse of a British officer in the pilot seat. The nearby village of Slewford hosts a top-secret military intelligence operation, home to high-ranking German POWs, and so the crash is a matter of national security. Billy is assigned by the commander of the POW facility to investigate.
If you like our article about the Billy Boyle reading order, don’t forget to bookmark it! You may also want to check out the Maggie Hope books.