Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Review of Slicky Boys by Martin Limon (SoHo Crime, 1997)

1970s Korea. American MPs Sueno and Bascom are unwittingly enrolled into luring an English soldier to his death.  Luckily for them they are assigned the case to investigate.  All the signs point to thievery, black market dealings, and the involvement of Slicky Boys, a ruthless Korean gang who specialise in theft from American bases.  However, the case is more complex that Sueno and Bascom anticipate and there is little cooperation from the local population.  And once their involvement in the Englishman’s death is known they are removed from the case.  Wanting to make up for their lapse the two military cops continue their investigation using a mix of threats, violence and street smarts.  But as the body count rises it seems they have taken on a foe that is more wily and tougher than them.

Slicky Boys is the second book in the Sueno and Bascom US military police series set in South Korea in the 1970s.  In this outing they tangle with the Slicky Boys, a secret, highly organized and ruthless gang that steals about four percent of the value of US Army goods and equipment in the country (enough to be highly profitable, but not arouse too much suspicion given the rampant black market economy).  Sueno and Bascom believe that they are responsible for the death of a young, enterprising Englishman who also has light fingers.  However, things are not quite as they seem and dealing with the Slicky Boys is a dangerous venture.  Whilst the context and setup are interesting the book has a number of shortcomings, the main one being that the plot is barely believable.  By any reasonable expectation, given their actions and encounters, Sueno and Bascom should have been dead by the mid-point and there are too many elements that made little sense beyond plot devices to add twists and action.  The prose is workman-like and often flat.  And while it is interesting to have two flawed lead characters, Sueno and Bascom are hardly likeable and Bascom, in particular, is fairly loathsome with his violent intimidation of witnesses and misogyny.  Such a portrayal of some American MPs might be reasonably accurate but it gets wearing after a while and the only thing keeping the reader rooting for them is the baddies are even worse.  Overall, then, an action-packed story, but weakly plotted.

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