A weekly alert for followers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.
Death’s Door, by James R. Benn (Soho Crime):
After the difficulties he faced in his last adventure, A Mortal Terror (2011), Lieutenant Billy Boyle could have been excused for taking a break from his investigative assignments. Instead, he’s dispatched in 1944 to the Vatican, where an American monsignor has turned up dead--murdered, in fact--at one of five entrances to Saint Peter’s Basilica. The Vatican City State enjoys a fragile neutrality in World War II (it was created as a separate political entity only in 1929), which only makes it more difficult for Boyle to solve this homicide. After making his way to Rome through Gestapo checkpoints, and then disguising himself as an Irish priest, the former Boston police detective must walk a no-less-dangerous path around the Vatican’s pro-Nazi, pro-Allied, and neutral personalities if he’s to complete his task. Meanwhile, his lover, British spy Diana Seaton, is incarcerated in the notorious Regina Coeli prison, just outside the Vatican. Does Boyle dare risk helping her to escape? Or might that only endanger the Vatican’s neutrality and expose his clandestine mission? Author Benn does a nice job of working the Vatican’s history, Pope Pius XII’s delicate political situation, and real historical efforts to stop Adolf Hitler into his fictional plot.