“The Line” by Martin Limón is set in South Korea some 20 years after the “cease fire.” People living in Seoul are terrified by the prospect of another war. North Korea has heavily fortified positions all along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and is capable of launching an attack that would reach Seoul. “Just another day in the R-O-K.”
Limón plunges readers into this tense situation through the first person account of George Sueño, an officer in 8th Army who conveniently speaks Korean, and his partner, Ernie Bascom, both agents for the United States Army Criminal Investigation Division, CID, in Seoul. The story is driven by the light-hearted banter, serious conversations, and thoughtful discussions between these two and the people they encounter.
Sueño and Bascom are rousted awake at “oh-dark-thirty” by one word: “Murder.”
Vivid details pulls the reader into the scene as the pair arrives and finds an unusually tense situation at the DMZ. Off in the distance, across the vast open space, just by “The Bridge of No Return” and North Korean territory, they see a body; the left boot is in South Korea, but the rest of the body is in North Korea. Guns are pointed by both sides, and no one will risk touching the body. With caution and trepidation, Sueño and Bascom slowly and carefully advance, and soon the body slides to the south.
The pace is frantic as Sueño and Bascom try to determine how the man died, and more importantly who killed him. North Koreans? South Koreans? Gangsters? Russians? The possibilities are endless and the task is daunting. They have a suspect, but is this the correct perpetrator or is it just the politically expedient choice?
Limón creates a realistic picture of life for military and civilians with a mix of cultural activities, everyday occurrences, and unusual events that are the consequences of life in the “occupied state” of South Korea. There is another intertwined story with an additional compelling crime that must be solved.
Limón sprinkles in Korean culture and language (with translation). There is also military alphabet shorthand, (MAC, JSA, DMZ, MDL, KATUSA, CID, MDL, JSA, BOQ AFKN, ASCOM) “decoded” for readers on the first use, but not necessarily in subsequent uses
“The Line” is number thirteen in Limón’s Sueño and Bascom series, but it is not necessary to have read the previous books to enjoy this one. Any background information a reader might need is folded into the scenarios of the current story. Even though the book is set in the mid-1970s the political tension, complex moral challenges, and social conflicts could have been pulled from today’s newspaper. I was given a copy of “The Line” by Martin Limon, and Soho Crime. This gripping book will keep readers guessing until the end.