MysteryPeople Review: The Joy Brigade
The Joy Brigade is something of a departure for Martin Limon, the creator of the George Sueño & Ernie Bascome series. The series is a unique twist on the cop buddy story with Ernie and George being Army CID cops having to navigate the culture of nineteen-seventies South Korea where they are stationed. This time he focuses on Sueño with a spy adventure that takes him into North Korea.
With Kim Jong Il taking over as supreme leader, there is fear that an invasion into the South is imminent. Two tunnels for a forward army have already been discovered. George is sent over the border in the guise of a Warsaw Pact member to link up with a contact who has a map of the tunnel system. For Sueño there is a personal side to the mission. The contact is Doc Young, a former lover who may have given birth to his son.
Limon delivers all the thrills and intrigue a story like this promises, as well as a look at North Korea during the period. There is a high stakes martial arts tournament that George must win, then lose, that he describes with much detail. The Joy Brigade, a group of women recruited to service high North Korean officials, plays an important part in the novel. Even the tunnels themselves come into play during a daring escape.
More than anything it’s Limon’s use of time and place that engages the reader. He shows Sueño trying to navigate the rigid culture to get to Doc Young. He also looks at tense times during The Cold War when an actual war could have happened and the US military was hoping for it. Limon doesn’t just use detail for set dressing, it’s woven into plot, character, and theme. You never feel you’re being taught, but you’re definitely schooled after reading it.
The Joy Brigade is an original adventure. Limon takes us to a country we know little about and examines a point in history that mirrors our current time. He also gives us a smart capable hero, driven and divided by love of duty, love of justice, and just plain love. Even though The Joy Brigade is a bit different from his previous work, it proves Martin Limon’s consistency of making plot, politics, and place very personal.
MysteryPeople welcomes Martin Limon to BookPeople to speak about & sign The Joy Brigade this Sunday, July 15 at 4p. He will be joined by author Timothy Hallinan.