I am comparing James Benn's latest book, "The Rest is Silence" to the preceding books in the "Billy Boyle" series, not necessarily to other historical mysteries. I think most readers of the review will already be familiar with the "Billy Boyle" series. "Silence" is the ninth book in the series.
Why do people read historical fiction? In many cases, these books give both an enjoyable plot and the chance for the reader to learn a bit more about history. That is, if the author writes the history with accuracy - or points out in an afterword what he has changed a bit for fictional stylings. American James Benn has been writing his "Billy Boyle" novels for about 10 years now. Billy Boyle is a young Boston cop whose family has finagled his way onto the staff of a certain American general he's related to. Billy becomes Ike's personal "fixer" and "looks" into various crimes that could affect the war effort. And in "Silence", that "war effort" is the pending DDay invasion of Nazi Europe.
Billy and his partner "Kaz" have been called down to the southern coast of England, near Dartmouth, to investigate a body that has washed up ashore from the English Channel. The body is of a man and is not identified and Eisenhower is worried the body could be that of a spy. The area the body is found is in the practice locale for DDay forces. While in the area, Billy and Kaz are invited by Kaz's friend, David, to stay at his in-laws' house, Ashcroft. And it is at Ashcroft that the Dame Agatha-type plot enters the story. Some untimely deaths along with the untimely turning up of a long-lost relative from the United States, and murders start. Also occurring in the area is the sinking of LST boats and the heavy loss of lives during a training incident of "Operation Tiger".
"The Rest of Silence" is part English country-home murder mystery and half WW2 war murder mystery. And, in fact, Billy is helped a bit in his investigation of the murder at Ashcroft and in the murders in the "Operation Tiger" area by a Mrs Max Mallowan, whose own country manor has been turned over to use by Allied forces. Mrs Mallowan's presence in the story is a sly joke I'm sure James Benn will hope is appreciated by his readers.
Billy and Kaz, with help from other secondary characters, do tie up the murder mysteries - both of them - in relatively neat fashion. I learned a little about DDay preparations along the south coast and, in particularly, "Operation Tiger". (It helps to read historical fiction with access to Wikipedia). I think this is James Benn's best book, so far. He writes in the first person - as Billy - which I think is rather a difficult thing to do. But he manages to pull it off. He has given his readers an excellent mystery and a chance to learn a thing or two. I'm looking forward to next fall's next book in the series.