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 enjoyed Ernie's comments on growing up in L.A. and the contrast with being in the military and working in South Korea.
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 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.
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.