Two gritty Army CID agents investigate a murder with sensitive racial and social undercurrents.
South Korea, 1974. George Sueño, who narrates in his usual punchy first-person, gets a call in the middle of the night and, with partner Ernie Bascom, meets the Korean homicide inspector they call Mr. Kill by the snow-covered banks of the Sonyu River. A body has been found; the victim is a beautiful young woman wearing a chima-jeogori—a traditional Korean dress of red silk—with a poem clutched in her hand. Suspecting the involvement of GIs, Mr. Kill hands the case off to the American duo. They piece together the identity of the victim, a "Korean business girl" who entertained American soldiers in bars like the Black Star Nightclub. Key to her murder is the Ville Rat, an elusive black market dealer. Obstacles to the investigation come via mistrustful locals and the Army itself. A third, pervasive strain of alienation exists between white and black GIs. As if to underscore this last issue, the duo is given the job of questioning black Pvt. Clinton Threets, who admits to shooting his superior, Sgt. Vincent Orgwell, after aggressive sexual advances. When finally George and Ernie catch up with Ville, he answers many of their questions but leaves a raft of new ones to unravel.
Though a bit shaggy, Sueño and Bascom's ninth appearance (The Iron Sickle, 2014, etc.) has vivid characters, and its searing portrait of the sins of our recent past bids fair to transcend the genre.