While the Shishi Cried
Author: J.E. ", Buck", Ballow
Publisher: Infinity Publishing (2008)
Binding: Paperback, 215 pages
Army CID Agents Eddie "Easy" Behr and Charlie Bees assist the Okinawa police in the investigation of a murder of a young girl on the back streets of Naminoue. The agents quickly find themselves involved deeply in the world of the Pink Trade, the old White Slavery practice, where young girls are lured to the island on the promise of high paying legitimate jobs. Instead they find themselves tricked and forced into the bars and the world of prostitution where they are held in economic slavery with no means of escape.
Okinawa-based U. S. Army Criminal Investigations Command (CID) Special Agent Eddie Behr and his partner Charlie Bees are two gumshoe detectives whose expertise is working the streets of the infamous GI bar districts in the Far East. When a young bar girl is murdered, the Okinawan police suspect American military involvement and ask Behr and Bees to help out. What follows is a step-by-step, methodical investigation that takes the pair deep into the white slavery world and subculture of Asia where girls are trafficked like a commodity, and vice and violence is a way of life.
While the Shishi Cried is a good crime and mystery read. For fans of Law and Order, this is a great book with a deep look inside Army criminal investigations in a foreign country. The reader is pulled in alongside Agents Behr and Bees as they tackle the investigation, every step, in a logical and orderly fashion until they solve the crime.
This is much more a crime and police or detective novel than a mystery, although there are certainly elements of mystery that hold out to near the end. The mystery element fades a bit when the antagonist becomes apparent about halfway through the story. That really becomes a moot point since, by then, Agents Behr and Bees are so invested in the investigation that there's no turning back. The reader roots for them to press on and finish the job of seeing justice for the girl's murder.
This is an authentic, gritty crime novel that portrays the realism of Army investigations as well as Okinawan culture. The author is a former CID Special Agent who spent many years in Asia and Okinawa in particular. Few details are spared. The heat and humidity of the island, the locations featured throughout the story, and the cultural aspects of life in the Far East are genuine and depicted well. Equally well represented are the aspects of a criminal investigation in a foreign country. Ballow has walked in the same shoes as his protagonist, and it shows. He captures the political nature of assisting a counterpart agency, the importance of liaison, and the value added when an American agency joins in an effort even when no clear nexus to the U.S. military is evident.
What I enjoyed the most, in addition to its authenticity, was the character development of Agent Behr. He's a tough Special Agent, a no-nonsense, street smart investigator with an imposing presence that usually commands cooperation from people with whom he interacts. At the same time, he's got a heart of gold and a soft spot for the people of Okinawa. One scene I enjoyed the most reflects this duality. Behr and the Okinawan police are pounding the pavement on a typically hot and humid day, trying to follow leads to solve the bar girl's murder. Behr spots a group of school children watching him as he eats a snow cone. He buys them all a treat, an act of kindness and good will that results in uncovering a significant lead that helps break the case. I recommend While the Shishi Cried to crime novel aficionados and fans, as well as readers of military fiction in general. It's a good read, an easy read, and the plot moves along quickly. If you like being pulled inside the head of a criminal investigator, understanding what motivates him and how he makes logical investigative decisions, then this is a good book for you.
Reviewed by: Mike Angley (2010)