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US Army detective Billy Boyle is called to investigate a mysterious murder in a Normandy farmhouse that threatens Allied operations.
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.
The investigation is shrouded in secrecy, due to the highly confidential nature of the American unit headquartered nearby in the Norman hedgerow country: the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, aka, the Ghost Army. This vague name covers
a thousand-man unit with a unique mission within the US Army: to impersonate other US Army units by creating deceptions using radio traffic, dummy inflatable vehicles, and sound effects, causing the enemy to think they are facing large formations. Not even the units adjacent to their positions know what they are doing. But there are German spies and informants everywhere, and Billy must tread carefully, unmasking the murder while safeguarding the secret of the Ghost Army—a secret which, if discovered, could turn the tide of war decisively against the Allies.
Set in the summer of 1944, Benn's exceptional 13th mystery featuring U.S. Army investigator Billy Boyle (after 2017's The Devouring) takes Boyle to Normandy, where Maj. David Jerome, the commanding officer of a signals company, has been found with his throat slit in a villa. A glass near the body with morphine residue at the bottom indicates to Boyle that the murderer spiked the major's drink to lessen his resistance. Oddly, troops from Jerome's company who were at the crime scene when Boyle arrived don't hang around to be questioned and Boyle must also account for the presence of 20-year-old Yvonne Virot, a mute woman living in the villa, whose clothing is drenched with blood. Complicating Billy's task are a morally suspect Resistance leader and the villa's owner, whose code name in the Resistance Corday evokes the excesses of the French Revolution. Details about ways to deceive the enemy about Allied army strength lend verisimilitude. Benn has never been better at integrating a whodunit plot line with a realistic depiction of life on or near the battlefield.