Thursday, October 24, 2013
Review of Jade Lady Burning by Martin Limon (1991, Soho Crime)
The interesting thing about Jade Lady Burning is Limon populates the story with unlikeable people doing unlikeable things in unlikeable places and yet has produced a very likeable tale. Sueno and Bascom are rough around the edges military police officers who drink too much, party with prostitutes in Itaewon, the red-light district of Seoul, and turn a blind-eye to some black market activity. The tale works well for three reasons. First, Limon tells the story at face value: he doesn’t romanticise or idealise or sanitize the Itaewon underworld, nor does he portray Sueno and Bascom as likeable rogues. Instead, the tale is told with gritty realism. Second, the story is well contextualised with respect to Korean society after the war and the relationship with the US military and its operations. Third, there is a compelling plot - the investigation into the death of a young Korean woman and the arrest of a young GI - which builds to a nice denouement. Overall, an engaging and entertaining slice of social realism.