Sueno & Bascom #1: “Jade Lady Burning” by Martin Limon. Army CID agents, Sgt. George Sueno and Sgt. Ernie Bascom work out of 8th Army Headquarters in Seoul, South Korea. When a young prostitute is found murdered, her body sexually brutalized, and the room set fire, the Korean National Police want an American GI blamed, though they seem to know who the killer really is. The American system wants to point to a young soldier, also. But CID agent Sgt. Sueno doesn’t like the smell, and thinks an American soldier is being set up to take the fall. Before the case is over, the investigation goes to the top command, and girls are killed, and Sueno and Bascom find themselves at the wrong end of the stick.
In the end, Sueno and Bascom are split up, with Sueno shipped to the DMZ, and we’re told they never work together again. This should have been a stand-alone novel. Yet the book must have caught on, and the publisher asked for more, for they’re back in the next book, and the next, and next and next. I did thoroughly enjoy the story, though it was slow and could have used more action.
Sgt. Sueno narrates the story and Bascom appears to merely be a sounding board. Or maybe he’s there just as a drinking partner. The best part about this book is its setting, South Korea. It’s a different world than anywhere else. It’s where crime starts from the top and works its way down, and when it’s too high, there is no way to police it. I was with the MPs in Korea, and knew many CID agents in Korea and elsewhere. Sueno and Bascom didn’t sound like any I had ever ran into. The CID I knew were always a tad above the rest of us GIs, and would not act in the manner these characters did. But this is fiction, and the characters are part fact and part false. They start sounding more like hard drinking private detectives after a while, not straight shooters trained by military intelligence. But I definitely plan on reading more stories featuring Sueno & Bascom.