Martin Limón: The Wandering Ghost
Soho Press, 2007
While North of the DMZ we have the ongoing series of the enigmatic Inspector O to keep us entertained with mystery, suspense and action, south of the border we have the maverick military police sergeants George Sueño and Ernie Bascom. Where Inspector O inhabits a contemporary world, Sueño and his buddy are based in the 1970s. Park Chung-hee is president. The Saemaeul movement is in full swing, improving productivity and cleanliness in the countryside.
The Wandering Ghost is the 5th instalment in the series, with a 6th already available in paperback. Previous outings in the series have been dark and sometimes violent. Sueño and Bascom have always resisted authority – as any fictional cop does – and have always had better access to the Korean community than their fellow GIs, but in this story this aspect of their characters are more than usually to the fore; and readers who have found previous books on the gruesome side will be more comfortable with the current story. Without giving too much away in terms of plot, part of the scenario revolves around the death of a young schoolgirl, knocked over by a speeding US military vehicle. And at least one GI is there to take the side of the Koreans in their protest against the US military. The Wandering Ghost of the title is the spirit of the dead schoolgirl, and a shamanistic gut must be arranged to put her to rest. But that is only a small part of the action.
As with all the Sueño stories, the action is fast-paced. Sueño and Bascom seem to operate at their best in a world of corruption and cover-up: and the more senior the people involved the better. They are even more at home in the back street hostess bars, whether on or off-limits to GIs. And this time round they even try some more upscale venues.
Fans of the previous installment should not hesitate. And newcomers can be assured that no prior knowledge is required. This is fun, knockabout stuff, and is highly recommended.