A Mortal Terror

Written by James R. Benn
Review by Elizabeth Caulfield Felt

A Mortal Terror is the sixth book in the Billy Boyle World War II detective series. While the American army is fighting Germany on Italian soil, two strange murders occur. Lieutenant Landry is found in the third division bivouac area between tents with his neck snapped and with a 10 of hearts playing card in his pocket. The same night, Captain Max Galante is found strangled in the palace gardens outside headquarters, a jack of hearts in his pocket. Billy Boyle is called in to find the murderer before more American officers are killed.

Not a fan of war stories, I was pleasantly surprised by the cleverness of this mystery. In the beginning, the murderer could be one of many people, but as Billy continues his investigation, the circle closes and as the murders pile up, suspects are eliminated by being killed. Still, it is difficult to pinpoint the psychopath, for in wartime, many people become momentarily insane.

This is an uncozy cozy. Wrapped in the cloak of war, with shells dropping and shots flying, it maintains that whodunit suspense that keeps mystery readers guessing. Billy Boyle narrates his adventures in a tough, Sam Spade-like voice. Fans of the series are sure to enjoy this episode, as are those who are new to Billy Boyle.