Evil For Evil has Billy, an investigator on Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's staff during World War II, in Northern Ireland to look into an arms theft. Here Billy chats with Kay Summersby at a hotel bar:
"`I know what you mean. The Black and Tans burned the center of Cork in 1920, so I'm familiar with the heavy hand of the British Empire.'"
"`I know,' I said. `My uncle Dan told me afterward the Black and Tans tied pieces of burnt cork to their revolvers, as a message to anyone who resisted them.' I could recall the stories Uncle Dan had told of the Irish Civil War, when the British recruited veterans of the World War to bolster the ranks of the Royal Irish Constabulary. They were issued a mixture of surplus military and police uniforms. The army uniforms were khaki, the police uniforms darker. The colors gave them their name ... "
I once heard an author of historical mysteries say that if you're going to describe Paris, have an outsider do it. That way the description seems natural for the character, and the author conveys the information painlessly, or nearly so. Benn does it here.
"That affair with the Norwegians" is the events related in Billy Boyle, the first book in the series. I'd read that book, so for me, the remark was a bit of an action-stopper, a perhaps necessary direct address to the reader. But if I'd read Evil For Evil first, the remark might have seemed a tantalizing bit of mystery — something I'd have gained by reading out of series order.
© Peter Rozovsky 2010