Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Iron Sickle - Martin Limón

My review of Martin Limón's The Iron Sickle first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers. It is appearing here today with their permission.

First line: "The man with the iron sickle entered Yongsan Compound on a Monday morning in the middle of October at approximately zero seven forty-five."

An unusually tall Korean man with a deformed lip walks into the US Army Claims Office in Seoul, requests to see the civilian boss and slices the man’s throat with an iron sickle concealed inside his overcoat. The murderer escapes amid the pandemonium of the crime’s discovery. Then when the mysterious, sickle-wielding Korean assassinates an American MP off the Army compound and escapes, the stakes skyrocket.

CID agents Sueño and Bascom are left off the case until Korean National Police Inspector Gil Kwon-up, a.k.a. Mr. Kill, specifically requests them for the joint investigation. The maverick partners dig into the evidence, but what they uncover is certain to make them enemies on all sides and, very possibly, the next targets for the man with the iron sickle.

The Iron Sickle engages its readers by blending Korean history, lore and geography with a tightly developed crime plot. Limón’s descriptions of war horrors are memorably disturbing without being gratuitously graphic. And Sueño and Bascom are a fascinating protagonist pair who inject occasional humor but still maintain the levity of the novel’s subject matter.

The plot includes several characters from prior novels, allowing regular series readers a bit more insight into the relationships previously forged; however, first time readers should have no trouble following the story on its own merits.

Limón includes Korean language with translation throughout the text, which at times seems a bit arbitrary, so some readers may find themselves momentarily pulled out of the story, but the momentum of the plot will certainly right their course.

The Iron Sickle is available in hardcover and as an unabridged audiobook, narrated by Timothy Andrés Pabon, from Blackstone Audio.


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