Martin Limón: Mr Kill
Soho Crime, 2011, 375pp
Damn. He’s never done this before.
This is Martin Limón’s 7th novel in his exciting, action-packed series featuring George Sueño and Ernie Bascom, investigators in the military police attached to the US 8th Army in 1970s Seoul
Although the novels have been written over the course of some 20 years (the first novel, Jade Lady Burning, was published in 1992), our investigators have aged little and are still firmly located in the 1970s. This particular novel is set in 1974, and the unfortunate death of Park Chung-hee’s wife in a botched assassination attempt on the President features in a little sub-plot in this story-line.
The main plot follows our investigators on the trail of a rapist and murderer who strikes on the Seoul to Busan express train. The culprit is known to be a foreigner, and presumed to be an American GI – hence our heroes’ involvement. A side story has our heroes assigned to protect a 1970s version of the Dixie Chicks, who seem to be plagued by a stalker as they tour the military camps providing entertainment for the troops. We wonder if the two strands of the story will ever meet.
Along the way, a mysterious third strand is introduced into the story, an echo from a previous novel, and we wonder what the connection is.
Much of the action, in a change from previous novels where the scene has usually been set in the bars of Itaewon, is set in Gyeongsangnam-do, Busan and also Jeju-do. Continuing the trend of previous novels, there is less violence, and less drinking and whoring. The central character, Sueño, seems more and more attached to Korea – we even find that he’s learned some Chinese characters to complement his competent Korean language skills.
Apart from the close working relationship between a group of Jeju-do haenyo and the US Marines, nothing in the plot stretches the imagination too far. The story hums along nicely. We pursue suspects only to rule them out. There’s plenty of thrills and spills, and there’s the usual brush with military authority, with the top brass having the occasional “case of the big ass”. Most of the loose plot threads get tied off during the last few pages. But, damn it, he’s never done this before: he ends the book on a cliff-hanger.
You don’t need an incentive to buy the next book in the series, but you’ve been given one anyway.
The 8th novel in the series, The Joy Brigade, was published in 2012.