The Ville Rat
A Sergeants Sueno and Bascom Mystery #10
Soho Crime, June 2016
When the body of a beautiful Korean woman washes up on the shore of a frozen river, it sets off an investigation that carries Ernie Vascom and George Sueno, two irreverent 8th Army CID agents, into areas far afield from just a murder inquiry. The event takes place during 1974 in South Korea, not far from the DMZ. Not only do they have to fight higher-ups in the chain of command, but must determine the motive for the killing.
Despite the fact that Pres. Harry S Truman “desegregated” the armed forces years before, the novel graphically portrays how black and white soldiers maintained their separate ways when off duty, convening in all Black or all-White bars for recreation. And in the midst of this enters the Ville Rat, the so-called nickname of a former GI who caters to the Black bars by supplying Colt 45 favored by the Blacks because of its higher alcohol content. The Ville Rat holds a key clue to the investigation and Ernie and George desperately try to find the illusive person to solve the case.
As a police procedural, the novel is juxtaposed between a detailed investigation and the seamier side of Army politics and Korean night life. The Ville Rat is the 10th novel in the series, each reflecting the author’s deep knowledge of the Korean people and culture, much less of the army and its officers. This newest entry is no exception, and is recommended.
Reviewed by Ted Feit, November 2016.