cover image Slicky Boys

Slicky Boys

Martin Limon. Bantam Books, $21.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-553-10443-1

Retired career military man Limon has fashioned a colorful second thriller (after Jade Lady Burning) that pits two U.S. Army CID cops against a brutal Korean crime ring. It's 1975, and George Sueno and Ernie Bascom are cruising Itaewon, the red-light district of Seoul. Sueno, the brains of the two, grew up in foster homes in East L.A., learned Korean quickly and isn't nearly as baffled as most of his fellow soldiers by the complex Korean customs: ""Their culture was just another puzzle to unravel, like so many I'd faced when the County of Los Angeles moved me from home to home."" Bascom, meanwhile, has found the Army a better home than the one he's left behind in Detroit. A Vietnam vet, he's a blaze of mad action and sexual energy. Sueno and Bascom penetrate a terrifyingly efficient gang of Korean criminals--the ""Slicky Boys""--run by a crafty villain called Herbalist So, who never shows himself to foreigners, though he makes an exception for the two American cops. It's good that he does, because Sueno comes to rely on him for help in finding the killer of a small-time British thief. Limon is not the most fluent of storytellers: he scants character motivation and his dialogue can be stiff. But there's atmosphere to spare here, and enough suspense to please, as he assembles a cast of unusual folk and sets them spinning amidst the complexities of an occupied and divided land. (May)