Friday, December 29, 2017

Finished: "A Blind Goddess" by James R. Benn

Finished: A Blind Goddess by James R. Benn, 2013, 9781616951924.

Benn takes a turn aware from some of the more obscure battles and episodes of WWII. Instead he takes us to rural England, gives us some murders, a child killer, German spies, racial turmoil in the U.S. Army, and the surprising British welcome for black U.S. troopers.

I write 'surprising' because I've read plenty about racism in England from the 1950s to today. Maybe that racism came with post-war immigration from the Caribbean and Africa. I'm not sure, I do recall learning there was an influx of POC immigrants in the 1960s. Anyhoo.

Billy Boyle is on leave with his hoity-toity girlfriend is on leave and she still recovering from her torture by the dirty, rotten, stinking, no-good filthy nazis. Boyle and his two co-workers Kaz and WhatsHisName are sent off by Colonel WhatsHisFace in military intelligence to investigate a murder in a a small canal town. The murdered man was a English civilian and Boyle questions the Colonel, "What the hell am I going there for? I'm in the U.S. Army."

The Colonel says, "The boarding home of the victim is regularly visited by a U.S. soldier dating the owner's daughter."
Boyle replies, "So what?"
Colonel tells Boyle, "Shut your fucking mouth. Do what you are told. Do not involve the German immigrants who own the place. If you fuck up I'll send you to prison for violating the secrets act."
Boyle says, "*gulp*"

Boyle arrives at the bucolic town and starts asking some questions. Quite a few things are going on. The dead man was murdered outside his canal side boarding house and dumped down the outside stairs to the cellar. A teen girl from a nearby home for refugees has gone missing. Boyle's high school pal shows up and tells Boyle that H.S. Pal and other black troops are treated like dirt and one of them is on the hook for the murder of a local constable. The German couple running the rooming house are supposed to be ardent anti-nazis who fled Germany. Military Intelligence is keeping a close eye on Boyle's investigation. A dead teen girl is found in the canal during a search for the first missing girl. So on. So forth.

Benn writes a good mystery plot and police investigation but that stuff just lays the groundwork for the topics Benn enjoys exploring about WWII. Benn focuses a lot on the treatment of black soldiers and their contrasting experiences between service in the U.S. and England. How troops based in the U.S. South could be quickly lynched by civilians and the lynchers get away with it because the Army wants to keep the peace. How some white U.S. troops bring that prejudice along to England and break all the glassware in a English pub rather than use the glasses used by black men.

Benn also touches a bit on German spies in England. How the krauts had both short and long term spies. Many of those spies were turned by Brit Intelligence and England would dictate the spies messages to Berlin. If just one of the spies got through an accurate message that could have derailed the whole invasion of France.

I greatly enjoy these novels. I'd been trying to red them in order and that delayed my getting back to the series. Reading is order is not necessary.

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