Monday, February 18, 2013

This is the fifth book in Martin Limon's excellent series set in the South Korea of the 1970s and featuring George Sueno and Ernie Bascom, two Army officers from the Criminal Investigations Division. Sueno, the narrator, is the brains of the pair and the one who will usually attempt to find a peaceful resolution to the difficult situations in which he and his partner all too often find themselves. Bascom has the shorter fuse and would sooner use his brawn rather than his brains, and together they made a powerful team.

In this case, the two are dispatched to Camp Casey, near the DMZ, to find Corporal Jill Matthewson, the only female MP on the base and one of the few in the Army at that time. Matthewson has disappeared; the investigators on the base itself have been unable to find her; Matthewson's mother has written to her congressmen seeking his help, and thus Sueno and Bascom have been dispatched from HQ in Seoul to assist in the investigation.

Upon arriving at the base, they get a pretty frigid reception and it soon becomes clear that the Powers That Be don't seem to be all that interested in finding Matthewson. As usual, Sueno and Bascom are less than impressed by the PTB, and are determined to complete their mission in spite of the obstacles that are thrown up in their way.

Before long, it becomes clear that the Case of the Missing Corporal is only the tip of a very rotten iceberg at Camp Casey. Sueno and Bascom are resolved to unearth and expose the corruption and other crimes that seem to permeate the base and to find Jill Matthewson as well. But before long, their own careers and lives are in grave danger as they press ahead with an investigation that a lot of people would rather be short circuited.

This is a very entertaining story, and as usual, the real pleasure of the book lies in the setting that Limon creates. His descriptions of the culture and geography of South Korea and of the relations between the Koreans and the G.I.s are extremely interesting and have the ring of truth. Limon has created a world unlike any other in contemporary crime fiction and it's hard to imagine any fan of the genre who would not enjoy visiting it.

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