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Mission to Paris

By Alan Furst. 272 pp. Random House, 2012. $27.

It’s 1938, and Viennese-born Hollywood film star Frederic Stahl arrives in Paris to make a movie. He soon discovers that a secret Nazi propaganda bureau, aiming at weakening French resolve to resist a German invasion, has targeted him to help—and its agents will get to him any way they can. Author Alan Furst’s typically ripe characters, vivid sense of place, and credible, expert plotting carry the day once again.

A Mortal Terror

By James R. Benn. 345 pp. Soho Crime, 2011. $25.

Lieutenant Billy Boyle, ex-Boston cop, is a sort of free-floating investigator for the Allied High Command, thanks to his uncle Ike—as in Eisenhower. The star of author James R. Benn’s noir adventure series (this is the sixth), Boyle here confronts his first European Theater serial killer, whose particular fetish is killing top U.S. brass. You can see why this would be a matter of some urgency to Billy’s uncle. Consistently entertaining.

Velva Jean Learns to Fly

By Jennifer Niven. 432 pp. Plume, 2011. $15.

Fans of Velva Jean Learns to Drive, the novel that became an Emmy-winning short, get another dose of their spunky Appalachia-born heroine. Velva Jean is damn determined to get outta them hills, fuelled by her late mama’s advice: “Live out there.” So what’s a poor country girl to do? You guessed it: Velva Jean heads to the Grand Ole Opry to take her shot at musical stardom. It doesn’t pan out, but her brother buys her a flying lesson— and she’s hooked. Come Pearl Harbor, Velva Jean becomes one of the thousand women to make the cut for the groundbreaking Women’s Airforce Service Pilots. And yes, there’s a boy, and she finds herself falling in love. A sweet, well-crafted coming-of-age tale with solid historical roots.


Originally published in the October 2012 issue of World War II. To subscribe, click here.