G.I. Bones: A Sergeants Sueño & Bascom Mystery
by Martin Limón
Review by Mel Jacob
Soho Crime Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781569476031
Date: 01 November 2009 List Price $24.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Martin Limón's G.I. Bones features Sergeants George Sueño and Ernie Bascom, members of the Criminal Investigation Division of the 8th Army. Set in post-war Korea during the Seventies, this sixth adventure for the two involves a twenty-year-old mystery over the disappearance of a young sergeant and finding the oversexed, underage daughter of a colonel. The 8th Army prefers they first find the girl, missing along with a thousand dollars from her father's safe.
Enamored of Korean doctor, Yong In-Ja, Sueño agrees to accompany her to a fortuneteller, Auntie Mee. The fortuneteller asks him to find and bury the bones of a young soldier she calls Mori Di. The soldier died in 1953. Knowing some Korean, Sueño realizes the Korean name must approximate the man's name.
He and Ernie begin a search of 1953 Serious Incident Reports, SIRs. Their efforts are rewarded when they find information on Technical Sergeant Florencio Moretti, missing and presumed dead. To find his bones they need to investigate the people he knew and what events occurred when he died.
Meanwhile Jessica Tidwell, daughter of Colonel Oswald Q. Tidwell, head of the J-2 military intelligence unit, disappears and her frantic parents want her back. Jessica has been involved with an enlisted man, Paco Bernal and now both she and the cash from her father's safe are missing. Her parents fear Bernal kidnapped her.
Sueño and Bascom locate her in Paco's quarters, but not Paco. Jessica says she gave Paco the money, but he planned to return it after completing a deal. Paco's belongings remain with the exception of his bayonet. Jessica is returned to her parents, but disappears again.
The story shifts between Sueño and Bascom's investigation and the notes of Cort, the MP who investigated Moretti's disappearance. Efforts to locate Paco, the money, and the missing Jessica complicate their efforts.
The two investigators regard the search for Jessica a nuisance and concentrate their efforts on finding out about Moretti. In charge of construction projects in the village of Itaewon, Moretti did what he could to help the desperate Koreans left destitute by the ravages of war. Disillusioned by the corrupt Ministry of the Interior, he found a way to outwit them.
Honest and a man of principal, he built a four-story headquarters building for his efforts and dedicated parts of it to an orphanage and a soup kitchen. He soon ran afoul of the Seven Dragons, a group of local toughs who preyed on the Koreans. Twenty years later the gang still controls the village. Its members run the bars and clubs where G.I.s congregate and employ Korean business girls to entertain the men. Corruption remains rife.
Sueño and Bascom contact others who might have known Moretti to learn about him and what happened. Two Bellies, once a successful business girl, supplies some information. Sueño believes Moretti's remains must be hidden in Itaewon and begins pouring over the plans of the buildings Moretti constructed. He finally settles on Moretti's old headquarters, now a nightclub, where a ramp was added about the time of Moretti's death.
Hiding their efforts, they locate Moretti's remains and report them to their superior. They need a search warrant to remove the bones. By the time they get it and return, Moretti's bones are missing, replaced by the corpse of Two Bellies. The Korean National Police arrest Sueño and Bascom for her murder.
Limón still strains credibility with the activities of the investigators. Sueño remains cool and collected except where Dr. Yong is concerned while Ernie Bascom operates with hair-trigger violence. At times, it is difficult to believe the amount of freedom the Army allows them. In any case, Limón provides plenty of twists and near-miss escapes to keep the readers turning pages. The conclusion will leave many wishing along with Sueño for a different ending.