The Red Horse (A Billy Boyle WWII Mystery)

Written by James R. Benn
Review by Kristen Hannum

It’s 1944, and U.S. Army investigator Billy Boyle is a patient at Saint Albans, a high-security convalescent hospital outside London. Boyle is recovering from emotional exhaustion and methamphetamine abuse. The former Boston homicide detective has been experiencing tremors and confusion when he sees another patient fall to his death from a clock tower. Boyle had been walking a circuit around its perimeter, worrying about his sanity when he saw it happen—except he saw two men up in the usually locked tower. Was it possible that the man who died had been pushed? Boyle is firmly put in his place when he attempts to help.

But when there’s another death, he is called upon to help ferret out the murderer. Luckily, Boyle’s old friend Kaz is also being held at the hospital (which turns out to also be a kind of jail) and can provide support as the tension builds. Boyle, still in recovery and at risk from the killer, must secretly follow up on clues as he hides his investigation from the hospital’s authorities.

The Red Horse is the fifteenth book in the Billy Boyle series, but it’s my first, so I can guarantee it can be read as a stand-alone. If other readers, like me, begin here I suspect they too will want to go back and read Benn’s earlier books. The characters didn’t overwhelm me, although it was clear that they were long-running figures in Boyle’s war. It’s lovely to know there are fourteen other books. Benn has obviously done his homework with this one: the psychiatric procedures of the day rang true for me, a psychiatrist’s daughter. The plot held together and felt fresh, and Boyle is an appealing protagonist. Recommended.