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By Martin Limon
Bantam Books, Paperback, 402 pages. April, 1999.
Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel
Tough guys George Sueno and Ernie Bascom have grown familiar with the denizens of Seoul's underworld as members of the U.S. Army's Criminal Investigation unit. Their superiors know that they are mavericks who don't always go by the book, but their eccentric ways are tolerated because they get the job done. They have a soft spot for the down and out who live and work in the back alleys of Seoul, and when a prostitute seeks them out to stop a rape in progress they rush in to help. The victim is not another lady of the night, but a Buddhist nun who's been collecting donations for a good cause. She hails the two soldiers as her heroes, and entrusts them with her money bag while she recovers from her injuries. She describes her attacker as a young black man. Since the only black men in Korea are soldiers, this vicious attack on a religious figure causes outrage among the Koreans. Sueno and Bascom are charged with finding the man quickly before violence erupts.
At the same time they are fighting off the nun's attacker, a nine-year old Korean girl, Mi-Ja, is kidnapped from the nearby hovel. The girl's adopted mother, known in those circles as Slicky Girl Nam because of her past ties to local thieving rings, and her foster father, retired Army sergeant Herman Burkowicz, ask the pair to help them get their little girl back. Herman is a petty black marketer, selling off items he gets from the Army PX for a profit, but he is basically harmless and pathetic. The men know the little girl, and their fondness for her leads them to agree to find her.
At the heart of both crimes is a priceless antique, a jade artifact which supposedly belonged to Khengis Khan. A band of militant Tibetan Buddhists are determined to recover it and think Herman knows where it is. A beautiful and mysterious Korean called Lady Ahn also seeks the artifact, claiming that it belongs to the royal family of which she is a member.
Sueno and Bascom are led all over Korea in the pursuit of the jade, racing against the clock to recover it and trade it for Mi-Ja's life.
The book is interesting, believable, and fast-paced. Limon brings us into this exoctic world and makes us care about its inhabitants.
Other books by this author include JADE LADY BURNING and SLICKY BOYS.
For more information about this author and this series, please read our interview.
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