Slicky Boys (Sergeants Sueño and Bascom Series #2)by Martin Limón
The Slicky Boys rule the back alleys of 1970s Seoul. They can kill a man in a thousand gruesome ways. And you’ll never even see them coming. In order to combat the poverty facing South Korea, they sneak onto well/b>/i>/i>
The second Sergeant George Sueño investigation, follow-up to the New York Times Notable Jade Lady Burning
The Slicky Boys rule the back alleys of 1970s Seoul. They can kill a man in a thousand gruesome ways. And you’ll never even see them coming. In order to combat the poverty facing South Korea, they sneak onto well-stocked American military compounds to steal, murder anyone in their way, and vanish. US Army Sergeant George Sueño and his partner, Ernie Bascom, take on the perilous mission of infiltrating this underground criminal syndicate when an innocent favor for an Itaewon bar girl leads to murder.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
When a British soldier is brutally murdered in mid-1970s Seoul, George (a savvy latino from East L.A. who's mastered the Korean language) and Ernie (a violence-prone Vietnam vet) maneuver frantically to get a piece of the investigative action; their ardor is attributable to the potentially embarrassing fact that an unidentified young woman had bribed them to pass the victim a note that sent him to his rendezvous with death. Once on the case, the two coupled sleuths realize they need more help than either the police or even their superiors can provide. At no small cost in blood and effort, George and Ernie make contact with the enigmatic eminence who controls the underworld organization known as the Slicky Boys. The crimelord (who calls himself the Herbalist So) sets them on a twisty path that leads through the capital city's flossier fleshpots and back alleys to the headquarters of the fledgling republic's seagoing service. Several homicides later, the NCOs discover that their man is not simply a black-market profiteer who killed out of panic. Indeed, dogged detective work reveals that he's a dangerous deserter from the American Navy who's probably selling military secrets to the Communist North. Cerebral George almost dies in a showdown confrontation with the cold-blooded turncoat for whom they've baited an irresistible trap, but Ernie (who lost round one to their quarry) drags himself from a hospital bed in time to get revenge and save his partner.
An above-average trackdown tale made memorable by dashes of local color as pungent as kimchee.
“It’s great to have these two mavericks back. . . . Mr. Limón writes with gruff respect for the culture of Seoul and with wonderful bleak humor, edged in pain, about G.I. life in that exotic city.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Combining the grim routine of a modern police procedural with the cliffhanging action of a thrilling movie serial, Slicky Boys is full of sharp observations and unexpected poignancy.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“There’s atmosphere to spare here and enough suspense to please. A colorful thriller.”
“An irresistible tale!”
“Two of the more memorable sleuths in the modern mystery canon.”
—The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“The writing is plain and sinewy, the characterizations are quietly brilliant and the moral vision is as cold as a Seoul bar girl’s gaze.”
Praise for the George Sueño and Ernie Bascom series
“Easily the best military mysteries in print today.”
"Brilliant—imbued with affecting characters, a morally knotty storyline, and a last chapter that just plain stuns."
—Maureen Corrigan, NPR, Best Crime Fiction of the Year
“Limón, who was stationed in Korea for the Army, writes with empathy for the Korean people as well for the young GIs dropped into a foreign culture.”
—The Boston Globe
“[Limón] vividly contrasts adventures in the seamy side of Seoul’s nightlife with a sensitive appreciation for Korea’s ancient culture.”
—The Seattle Times
“This series is a must not only for procedural fans, but also for anyone who enjoys crime fiction set in distinctive international locales.”
—Booklist, Starred Review
“[The Ville Rat’s] searing portrait of the sins of our recent past bids fair to transcend the genre.”
Read an Excerpt
After stomping through the snow to the 21 T-Car motor pool, Ernie flashed his badge and managed to get the keys to the jeep from the half-asleep dispatcher. Twenty-one T-Car is a military acronym that actually means 21st Transportation Company (Car), which maybe makes a little more sense.
Despite the frigid air, the motor started right away. Ernie grinned.
"Amazing what a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black will do for an engine."
The bottle went every month to the head dispatcher who made sure the jeep was properly maintained and always available when Ernie needed it.
We drove through the gate and out into the city.
All vehicles were off the street now because it was past curfew, the midnight-to-four lockup the government slapped on a battered populace over twenty years ago at the end of the Korean War. The theory is that it helps the authorities spot North Korean spies who might be prowling through the cover of night. The truth is that it reminds everybody who's boss. The government and the army. Not necessarily in that order.
We rolled through the shadows.
Seoul was dark and eerily quiet and looked like a town that had been frozen to death.
The jeep had four-wheel drive and snow tires, but still Ernie slid on the packed ice every now and then. He turned out of the skids expertly and I felt perfectly safe with him at the wheel. Safer than I would've felt if I were driving. He's from Detroit. He's used to this kind of thing. But I hadn't learned how to drive until after I joined the army and, in East L.A., where I come from, it doesn't snow very often. Only during Ice Ages.
I thought of the long summer days when Iwas a kid, running with packs of half-wild Mexican children through alleys littered with gutted mattresses and stray dogs and broken wine bottles. There were no swimming pools in the barrio. We poured buckets of chlorine-laced water over our heads in a futile effort to keep cool. And during the hottest days of the season, when I was fortunate enough to land a job, I breathed in the tang of warm oranges and overripe limes fermenting in a metal pail as I knocked on door after door in Anglo neighborhoods, hustling for a sale.
Every kilometer or so we were stopped by a ROK Army roadblock. The soldiers looked grim and tired. Their breath billowed from fur-lined hoods and they kept their M16 rifles pointed at the sky, which was okay with me. After we showed our identification and the twenty-four-hour emergency dispatch, they waved us through without comment.
Neither Ernie nor I talked. We were both thinking the same thing. We were in deep kimchi, the fiery-hot fermented cabbage and turnips that Koreans love. Kimchi up to our nostrils.
We'd taken money to deliver a note to Cecil Whitcomb, and now he was dead. Military justice doesn't know much about mercy. If anybody found out, we'd be kicked out of the army with a bad discharge or end up doing time in the Federal Penitentiary in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, or both.
This wasn't going to be a routine case.
I was also beginning to feel a little guilty about maybe getting Whitcomb killed. Maybe a lot guilty. But I decided to put that away for now. I needed to think. And concentrate on the job I had to do when we arrived at the murder site.
Despite all the boozing we'd done in Itaewon, Ernie and I were both sober. But it wasn't from the cold air. It was from the tarantula legs of fear slowly creeping up our spines.
Meet the Author
Martin Limón retired from military service after twenty years in the US Army, including ten years in Korea. He is the author of numerous books in the Sueño and Bascom series, including the New York Times Notable Jade Lady Burning, Slicky Boys, The Iron Sickle, Nightmare Range, and The Ville Rat. He lives near Seattle.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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