THE ARMY C.I.D. by Rick McMahan
In recent years, the media has taken an interest in military justice system with such movies as "A Few Good Men" and the television show "JAG," both about the military legal system from the viewpoints of military attorneys. To those of us not a part of the military, the military is a unique caste system set apart from the rest of the country. Unlike the rest of us who get up and go to work every day, the careers of the men and women of the military are to train and be ready to go fight and die around the world. It is a society of warriors. It is also a caste society divided by rank, enlisted and officer. But just like the rest of society, the military has crime.
In the U.S. Army the C.I.D. (Criminal Investigation Division) is the investigative branch of the Military Police. C.I.D. Agents are Warrant Officers, a rank between enlisted and officers, a rank they rarely use. They use only their title as Special Agent when they are working.
In recent years, novelists have taken on the task of creating mysteries centered around the military. Several protagonists bearing the badge of the U.S. Army C.I.D. have found their way into popular fiction.
Author Martin Limon is a retired Army officer. He used the experience and knowledge he gained from ten years spent in Korea to create a pair of memorable characters, U.S. 8th Army C.I.D. agents George Sueno and Ernie Banscom. Limonís books take place in Korea in the early '70s after the Vietnam war, in a different military than today. It was Army where smoking was done at desks and beer was sold out of vending machines in the barracks.
George Sueno is a from the rough streets of in the barrios of East L.A. where he grew up in foster homes. He has adopted the Army as his family. George aspires to learn about this proud and different culture known as Korea. In fact, he has learned their language which helps him in accomplishing his job since he doesnít come off as an ugly American.
Ernie Bascom is a little off-center. He is a man who got through two tours of Vietnam with a hell-if-I-care attitude and is now in Korea with the same attitude.
This C.I.D. duo, spend their nights carousing and slumming through a drunken stupor, chasing women in Itaewon. Their days are spent chasing blackmarketeers. In Jade Lady Burning (223 pages, 1992, Soho Press, $10.00), a young Korean "working-girl" is murdered and her small shack burned to the ground. An unwitting U.S. soldier is arrested for the crime. George and Ernie donít believe the man committed the murder, but no one, not Command and not the Koreans, want the investigation pursued. Of course like good mystery heroes, George and Ernie donít listen to their commanders and they start digging into a case that no one wants pursued.
In Slicky Boys (377 pages, 1997, Bantam Press, $21.95), C.I.D. Agents George Sueno and Ernie Banscom are back doing what they do best--carousing the decadent parts of Itaewon, when a young lady approaches them to deliver a message to a British soldier whoís apart of the U.N. honor guard at the 8th Army Compound. The next day the British soldier is found eviscerated in a part of Seoul where foreigners do not usually go. George and Ernie realize that the young lady duped them into helping lure the British soldier to his death. The two C.I.D. agents vow to find the killers. They find out that the British soldier was a petty thief who may have crossed paths with the Slicky Boys, a Korean organization of thieves who control the thefts at U.S. military compounds around Korea. Another theory is that the soldier was not just a simple thief but may have been a spy for the North Koreans. As the C.I.D. agents use their contacts in Itaewon to close in on the killers, people close to George and Ernie start dying.
Philip Shelby's latest book Last Rights features Rachel Collins, a female C.I.D. agent, as the main character. Collins is assigned to be a JAFO (Just Another Fucking Observer) on an operation in Maryland involving local authorities. The police have information that an Army Sergeant is selling automatic weapons and explosives. The local S.W.A.T. team stakes out the warehouse to take him down. Collins is only suppose to be there watching, but the operation goes bad. Collins winds up in the middle of a firefight with the renegade Sergeant. With his dying breath, the Sergeant makes a chilling confession about helping murder a popular black general who supposedly died in an aircraft accident. Was it a braggartís boasting--a mind gone on racial hate trying to get fame in his dying breath? Or was this soldier part of a horrible conspiracy which reaches high into the power brokers of Washington D.C.?
Collins finds herself teamed up with a counter-terrorist expert from the F.B.I. As they chase the enigmatic murderer across the country, they realize that this man is always two or three steps ahead of them. He has to have access to their investigative information which means thereís a leak. Soon they donít know who they can trust inside or outside their chain of command.
This is Shelbyís second book (Days of Drums was his first). If he keeps writing thrillers with the same pace and action as in Last Rights heís on his way to becoming a mainstay in mystery and political intrigue novels.
As the clichť goes, one always saves the best for last, and that is the case with the last book about the C.I.D. I wish to talk about, The Generalís Daughter by Nelson Demille (464 pages, 1992, Warner Books, $6.50).
C.I.D. agent Paul Brennan is working an undercover operation at Fort Hadley in the backwaters of Georgia when the base commanderís daughter, Captain Ann Campbell is found murdered on a rifle range on a remote portion of the base. Since Brennan is an outsider and not part of the base rank and file, his bosses back at C.I.D. headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia decide Brennan would be the perfect candidate to run this highly sensitive and volatile case. Because of the sexual overtones of the murder, C.I.D. assigns another agent as his partner, a specialist in sex-crimes, Cynthia Sunhill. It just so happens that Brennan and Sunhill were once lovers, and it is obvious Brennan has not gotten over his feelings for his partner, even though sheís now married. As they go about trying to answer the question of who killed this literal poster-child of the Army, they discover that Captain Campbell had a dark side to her, one that many people knew about but none spoke of.
Purely from a mystery novel standpoint, The Generalís Daughter is one of the most well-written mysteries to come along in a long time. I first read this book when it was published in hardcover. I was knocked out by the writing. I love the style and personal flair Demille was able to inject into this novel.
Essentially Paul Brennan is a wisecracking detective from the old hardboiled genre, but Demille breaths new life into this type of hardboiled mystery with his unique setting and the highly individual voice of his main character.
A few final and random thoughts about The Generalís Daughter. Rumor has it that Demille has signed an agreement with Michael Douglas Productions, so we may be seeing this novel adapted to the big screen. Iím cringing inside. I hope they do a good job, but we all know that rarely does a movie do an excellent book the justice it deserves.
Since reading The Generalís Daughter, every time I work with a C.I.D. agent, I usually ask if theyíve read this book, and an overwhelming percentage have, which makes me wonder if the Army C.I.D. makes it mandatory reading in their academy. When stationed in Georgia, another investigator and myself had occasion to go to Fort Benning, the true home of the infantry, to work on a case and we interfaced with the C.I.D. there. An agent said that Fort Hadley is nothing more than a renamed Fort Benning; that Demilleís description of the rifle ranges and of the Generalís residence on base were exactly the way those features are in real life at Fort Benning. And finally, Congress did pass legislation to create another grade of Warrant Officer, so now agents no longer need to asphyxiate from holding their breath in anticipation. For those of you who have read the book, you'll get the joke. For those that haven't read it yet, read The Generalís Daughter and listen to the voice and wisdom of a weathered war horse, Paul Brennan.
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