A fourth military thriller from Davis (The Colonel, 2001, etc.), this about a military criminal investigation that turns on a dead woman and a military cover-up.
Nelson DeMille opened up this territory in The General’s Daughter, and while The Commander lacks that novel’s background density and rounded characters, Davis speeds his plot with more hooks, twists, and turns per chapter than DeMille would dream of. Major Burton Webber, former chief of the Osan Air Base Office of Special Investigations in South Korea, resigned his commission after 15 years’ service when Lieutenant General Harry Muller turned down his strongly deserved promotion for reasons Burt saw as racist. Burt is married to Chung-hee, a Korean educated in the American South and still carrying a southern accent, and she was never accepted by officers’ wives on the base. So Burt goes to work in the jewelry store Chung-hee inherited from her father in Song-tan, a town near the base. Only a month later, Ambassador Gregson demands that Commander Muller hire Burt on a special commission to investigate the murder of a bar-girl in Song-tan’s red-light district. Against his will, Burt is talked into accepting a $7,000 monthly retainer from the air base. Why? Because he’s hustled by former best friend Colonel Roy Johnson. Evidence points to an American murderer, and if that’s true it must be covered up to preserve the peace. Burt is joined in his investigation by a jazzy but brilliant Korean detective, who must cover up if the perp turns out to be Korean, and by Lieutenant Susan Torres, the base’s tough-talking but dogged investigator. The procedural gets bloody with the corpse of the bar-girl, slit open from pelvis to sternum with a two-month fetus removed. At heart, though, the deeper tale lies in the mores of the Koreans. Davis, himself the son of an American ambassador and a Chinese mother, has a cultural advantage in telling this story.