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THE WANDERING GHOST
By Martin Limon
Soho Press, 2007 ($24.00)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Military investigators George Sueno and his pal Ernie Bascom are not thrilled to be sent from their post in Seoul to Camp Casey, headquarters of the U.S. Army's 2nd Infantry Division, near the DMZ. The powers that be at Camp Casey are not thrilled to have them there, and make that very obvious immediately. Sueno and Bascom frequently get that reaction after they've been on a case for awhile, but this instant hostility seems suspect. Something's going on, that's obvious, but nobody's talking.
The CID sergeants have been dispatched to the 2nd to help find out what happened to Corporal Jill Matthewson, the first female M.P. in the 2nd Division, and one of the few female soldiers in the Army at this time, in the early 1970's. Jill seems to have vanished without a trace, and the possibilities for her disappearance include rape and murder, murder because of professional jealousy or misogyny, suicide, or maybe she just went AWOL. In the three weeks she's been missing, the 2nd's investigation has turned up nothing. Her mother contacted her congressman, who contacted the 8th Army headquarters in Seoul, who dispatched their best men to put the pressure on and find Jill.
When George and Ernie arrive, they find that another M.P. just died, with the official verdict of suicide. They quickly discover that the man was one of the last to see Jill, and that he was most likely murdered. The officers in charge brush them off, and when they start making progress they are banished from the post.
The guys don't let a little thing like that stop them, and they keep on digging into the corruption at the 2nd, finding that the deeper they go, the higher up the chain of command the corruption goes. They spend a lot of time dodging bullets from Korean bad guys and people supposedly on their own side. The two are not above taking liberties with the rules and regulations, but they get the job done. While Sueno speaks some Korean and has respect for the people and culture, Ernie is apt to be rude, crude, and socially unacceptable, has anger management problems, and is apt to make irrational decisions that come close to getting them into major trouble. His heart, however, is pure, and he will do everything he can to get Jill back if it's possible to do so, and to have anyone who might have harmed her charged and punished for the crime.
The wandering ghost of the title refers to a young schoolgirl who was run down by an Army truck. Jill was first on the scene, and tried to help the girl, but her father refused to let her go to the hospital. He knew his daughter was dying, and if she died away from home her spirit would become lost, unable to find her way back to her family.
Mr. Limon knows a great deal about the Army and about Korean culture, having spent several tours there. He is a fine writer, equally able to bring to life the back streets and brothels of the Korean villages and the barracks, jails and offices of the Army camp. The sergeants are rough around the edges, but if I were a solder in trouble, I'd want them to be on my side.
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