Road of Bones (A Billy Boyle WWII Mystery)

Written by James R. Benn
Review by Valerie Adolph

It is September 1944, and Billy Boyle is relaxing in a London hotel after completing a dangerous intelligence mission in France. Orders come for him to leave immediately for Poltava, a joint Russian/American air base in Ukraine. Two men at the base, a Russian and an American, have been found murdered. The situation is delicate with the U.S. and Russia, who are technically allies but in an uneasy relationship, and the Russians: paranoid, quick to find fault, and even quicker to punish.

Boyle and fellow investigator Kaz, a Polish aristocrat who hates Russians, must manipulate their way through Russian and American chains of command—military, OSS and NKVD. Assistance is provided intermittently by men whose primary agenda is to stay away from Siberian prison camps and lethal mine-clearing assignments. Boyle and Kaz find themselves in an environment of spies, counterspies and drug smugglers for whom espionage is merely a sideline.

In this, the 15th of the series, Billy Boyle rapidly finds himself in a British bomber flying eastwards over Germany and forced to crawl outside the plane to kick free a bomb that has failed to drop. Later he is a passenger on an old-fashioned biplane piloted by one of the Russian women pilots, known as ‘the night witches’, on a slow, silent and potentially fatal bombing raid. His safe return is not welcomed.

The author portrays this crucial time and remote, little-known place with insight and occasional humor. The espionage/counter espionage genre is here developed and portrayed by a master. He maintains a high level of tension together with vividly portrayed action and expert characterization. The result is an intriguing variety of nail-biting experiences.