Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mystery Book Review: G. I. Bones by Martin Limón

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of G. I. Bones by Martin Limón. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

G. I. Bones by Martin Limón

A George Sueno and Ernie Bascom Mystery

Soho Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-56947-603-9 (1569476039)
ISBN-13: 978-1-56947-603-1 (9781569476031)
Publication Date: November 2009
List Price: $24.00

Review: Military police sergeants George Sueno and Ernie Bascom investigate a number of unrelated criminal incidents in the Seoul city district of Itaewon in G. I. Bones, the sixth mystery in this series set in 1970s Korea.

A fortune teller insists Sueno and Bascom arrest one of their soldiers, who has been harassing her by waking her every night, forcing her to light sticks of incense, and speak to her. He even interrupts her when she is working with clients, confusing her readings. The problem for the sergeants is that the soldier, Flo Moretti, has been dead for over 20 years, killed during the peace talks between North and South Korea in July 1953. She insists they find him -- his bones -- so he can be properly buried and find peace. Sueno and Bascom find themselves searching in the red-light district of Seoul, into the hangouts of gangs and mobsters, the brothels where young Korean girls are forced to work for the pleasure of both Koreans and American soldiers. Itaewon, with its neon-lit night clubs and the best musicians, is in striking opposition to the crime that simmers just below the surface. The Seven Dragons criminal organization provides order for the area, but does so at the expense of lawfulness. Now the 17-year-old daughter of one of 8th Army Division's officers has been reported missing (together with $1000 from a locked safe) but who the sergeants discover has taken refuge in the area and wants to be left alone. Before Moretti's bones are located or the young American returned to her family, four people are murdered ... including the fortune teller who brought them there in the first place.

G. I. Bones is a fascinating study of contrasts. Alternating between the present and the past, Sueno and Bascom are convinced that their murder investigation depends on events that took place during the Korean War. Who was Flo Moretti and why was he killed? To balance the horrors of war -- any war -- wry humor is often introduced, as it is here, so that the scenes are more easily read. The underlying themes are war and peace, law and order, crime and punishment. But that's not the only contrast: Sueno and Bascom are buddies whose strengths play well off each other, with Sueno being a bit too hot-tempered at times and Bascom being more reserved. And finally there are the two mysteries the sergeants are investigating: How are they related, if they are related, and does the resolution of one help solve the other?

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of G. I. Bones and to Soho Press for providing a copy of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): A Korean fortune-teller is being bothered by a dead American soldier who wants his bones found and buried. An underage officer's daughter is missing together with a Latino soldier. Several of the leading Korean gangsters who own the bars in the ville have been killed. Sueno and Bascom of Military Intelligence must go back to the founding of Itaewon, Seoul's red-light district, in order to learn who killed the soldier, who's taking revenge on the gang lords, and where to find the missing girl.

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