Friday, December 26, 2014

Slicky Boys: Martin Limón


Corporal George Sueño and Sergeant Ernie Bascom of the US Army return in Martin Limon's second book set in 1970's Seoul in South Korea. Sueño and Bascomb deliver a message from a Korean woman to a British soldier in the UN forces. Later, he turns up dead and they could be in trouble, to the extent of being dishonorably discharged. They have to investigate the murder without revealing their involvement with the victim. The "slicky boys" are ruthless black marketeers operating in Seoul who may be involved in the killing.

This book was a joy to read. I say that despite the fact that it features plenty of violence. I like Martin Limon's writing style and I like the story he has to tell of the military in South Korea in the 1970's. The plot is very complex and our heroes don't always operate within the law. The story is told in first person by Sueño, who is the more controlled and logical member of the pair. Bascomb often lets his emotions take over and wreaks havoc.

The two main characters are very interesting. The narrator relates his story in a compelling way.
My name is George Sueño. My partner Ernie Bascom and I are agents for the Criminal Investigation Division of the 8th United States Army in Seoul. We work hard—sometimes— but what we're really good at is running the ville. Parading. Crashing through every bar in the red-light district, tracking down excitement and drunkenness and girls.
...
Ernie and I were both grateful to the army.
...
What was I grateful for? For having a real life, for having money coming in—not much, but enough—and for having a job to do. I was an investigator and I wore suits and did important work. A status I never thought I’d reach when I was a kid in East L.A.
My mother died when I was two years old, and my father had taken off for Mexico shortly thereafter. ...
I was brought up by the County of Los Angeles-in foster homes. It was a rough existence but I learned a lot about people, how to read them, how to hide when it was time to hide, and how to wait them out. The mothers were all right. It was the fathers you had to watch out for. Especially when they were drunk.
I enjoyed Ernie's comments on growing up in L.A. and the contrast with being in the military and working in South Korea.

I could go on and on about what I love about this writer and this series, but I can't say whether others will enjoy it or not. At nearly 400 pages, it is an investment of time. For me it was worth it.

Per the publisher, Soho Press, "Martin Limón retired from military service after twenty years in the US Army, including ten years in Korea." J. Sydney Jones interviews the author at Scene of the Crime. Jones describes the series: "Part police procedurals, part thrillers, Limón’s novels, as Michael Connelly noted, 'take you away to a brand new world.' " There are nine books in the series.

This post at Detectives Beyond Borders has more great quotes from Slicky Boys.

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Publisher:   Soho Press, 2004 (orig. pub. 1997)
Length:       387 pages
Format:      Trade paperback
Series:       George Sueño and Ernie Bascom #2
Setting:      South Korea, 1970's
Genre:        Police procedural, thriller
Source:      I purchased this book.


16 comments:

  1. i've read the last four reviews but this is the one that catches my attention. I'm ordering it as we speak. I must tell you how much I am enjoying Agatha Christie's Crooked House. It starts slow but I am taking it apart....word by word! I've found doubt, suspicion and even comic relief! Still cannot figure out why main character ' didn't bat an eyelash' when she heard a marriage proposal. No clues yet... I only hope I can tear myself away from crime fiction and read some classics! What have you done to me?

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    1. Hope you like this one, Nancy. Crooked House is one of my favorite Agatha Christie books. I hope to read more books by Christie in 2015. I neglected her for other mystery authors in 2014.

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  2. Tracy - This certainly sounds like a really absorbing story of characters as much as anything else. Interesting! And I don't know enough about that period of time in Korea, nor about the US presence there during that decade. I ought to try that series...

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    1. I did find Slicky Boys absorbing, Margot. Even as it got more thrillerish, the narration kept me engaged. I do love learning about Korea in this time period.

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  3. What a striking front cover. I couldn't stop looking at it. The best part of your blog, Tracy are the books you read which are a complete revelation to me. Thanks!

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    1. Thanks, Sarah. I do love the Soho covers in this style, and this is a beautiful one. This series really is a good one, although it may not appeal to everyone.

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  4. Sarah has expressed my exact thoughts in the comment above! That picture is very compelling. Not sure if I'll ever get to this one, but a great review.

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    1. Thanks, Moira. I have enjoyed the first two books in the series, and now will be looking for book three. I have a couple of the later ones. I am always behind in series.

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  5. Tracy, had I seen this book in the bookstore, I'm not sure I'd have picked it up but your review is going to make me think twice before turning away from such books in future. I have no hesitation in buying novels with illustrations rather than actual portraits or photographs on the cover.

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    1. Prashant, This cover is representative of events in the book but... only some of them. It is hard to tell from covers what a book holds. I have bought some books because I loved the cover and not liked the book.

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  6. I'll put him on my maybe wish-list. Not enough time or money and too many books already, otherwise it was a shoe-in. I'll see how long the series is before ruling it out totally.

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    1. Col, I know exactly what you mean. I have got to cut back on buying books, and there are always new ones I want, no matter how many I have.

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    2. Update - I ordered the 1st two before the end of 2014 and the new (stronger firmer stricter) embargo!

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    3. How will you enforce the embargo, Col? I want to buy less books but have no definite plans to restrict my buying ... yet.

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    4. I'm just going to have to be really strict with myself and maybe just allow enough slack to admit one book in for every ten existing read. I think that was my original plan. Just make more lists of want to reads, rather than having extra books bought but never actually read.

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    5. More lists of want to reads is the route I need to go also, Col. I have already placed pre-orders for two books (originally published in the UK) that come out in May, but I would really like to keep the buying down.

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