Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung
The US-based Soho publishing house is specially known for its lists of foreign, especially foreign language, titles. Their rectangular logo at the base of a spine on the bookshop shelves is a sign to check that volume. Martin Limon (there should be an acute accent over the letter O), is an American author but Mr Kill is set in Korea in the 1970s, and its characters are the native Koreans and the members of the US Army stationed in the Republic ever since the war with the North twenty years before. It is a world I have never known.
We’ve been reading about Lee Child’s sometime Military Policeman for ten years or so now, but Martin Limon started his George Sueno series twenty years ago with Jade Lady Burning – Soho will be re-issuing it soon. Jack Reacher was a major, but George Sueno and his partner Ernie Bascom are lieutenants, further down the pecking order. Given that the US Eighth Army prefers quiet to noise, order to disorder, and the appearance of order to actual disorder, Sueno and Bascom's desire for justice puts them not only at odds with the rapists, murderers and smugglers they are tasked with investigating, but often with their own superiors.
Sueno is unique in the Military Police in Korea – he is fluent in Korean and circulates, but he sees the grunts about him who are unable to speak to their hosts, unable to read the street signs, in a country where the bars and restaurants outside their bases providing their R&R are likely to have open sewers outside their front doors, still liable to terrorist attacks from the north, and short-staffed in their establishment. The grunts keep their heads down and work on. How would you identify a psychotic murderer among them when no one’s life could be thought to be normal?
“Mr Kill” is the Korean police officer liaising with Sueno and Bascom as they investigate what initially seems to be the rape of a Korean woman on a train by an American who is almost certainly a soldier. Witness statements, and then events, prove that the rapist is on a path of escalating violence, as another woman is murdered. The MPs have suspects who require chasing down, but they are also allocated to guarding a touring music group, while Sueno starts to receive hints that another case is re-opening. No wonder that the partners exist between caffeine and exhaustion, given little support by their commanders, and finally crash into inter-forces rivalry.
Fascinating as it is, Mr Kill would be slicker to read if it were shorter, as Sueno and Bascom go to and fro, initially with few results. That said, Martin Limon who served in the US Army, part of that time in Korea, has a pretty good story to tell. You may like the detail. Look out for Martin Limon. Look out for Soho titles.