Thursday, November 17, 2016

Buddha's Money

Sueno & Bascom #3: “Buddha’s Money” by Martin Limon. While working the Itaewon red light district in Seoul looking for black market activity, CID agents Sergeants Sueno & Bascom are contacted by business girl (prostitute) Sooki, who tells them a nun has been attacked. She leads them to an alley where they hear a fight in progress and stop a black American soldier from beating a Korean nun. The American escapes, and the boys take the nun to the KNP police station, but locals think they are the ones that beat the nun up. There is a big problem now with locals angry at all American soldiers. While at the police station, a retired sergeant grabs them, and reports his adopted Korean daughter has been kidnapped. This leads them to discover there is more going on than meets the eye. The attack on the nun and the kidnapping has something to do with Lady Ahn and an antique skull that once belonged to the Dragon Throne of China, and her ancestors. The skull was used by Kublai Khan as a drinking vessel, and has a map to the burial place where much of his treasure was hidden. Buddhist monks are also after the skull. The writing is smooth, the plot is good, and the characterization is topnotch. The author knows Korea. It is fun reading about places that I once knew, and hearing Korean words I once knew. My main problem with the series is the main characters. They are supposed to be Army CID agents, but are nothing like the many CID agents I knew in my twenty-year career in the military police. Sueno & Bascom act more like private detectives than military investigators, doing what they want when they want. They merely report to a 1st Sergeant, basically when they want. In reality, the CID office consists of agents under the command of a warrant officer. Jobs are assigned, and they work hand in hand with their superiors and local police, when necessary, fellow agents, and the MPs. Something that really turned me off in this story is the office Staff Sergeant. Evidently he has the combination to the safe, but gets so drunk someone gets the combination from him and breaks into the office and steals something from the safe. The next day it was like, well, gee, these things happen. No, they don’t! If that SSGT had a drinking problem he would not have been the one in charge of the safe. As it was he would have lost a stripe over such lack of responsibility, but nothing is even said to him about his dereliction of duty. This is the Army, and the CID is better trained and organized than any of these characters are in this series. I love the setting, and the idea of CID agents as the main leads. I can even accept Sueno & Bascom as Army goof-offs who get involved in mischief – but not as CID agents. Another problem is the man in charge of the armory giving them unregistered weapons and ammunition when they want them. That doesn’t happen in the MP or CID weapons armory. All weapons and ammunitions are strictly accounted for. All of this makes for a good story, and the setting is honest. If Sueno and Bascom were anything but CID agents, it would have worked for me.

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