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An amazing and ambitious first novel. Think of it as Raymond Chandler gets hardboiled and eaten cold by a North Korean bureaucracy where the good guys don't just battle crime, but have to fight through a broken, Kafkaesque maze of political nihilism, factionalism, and stoic fatalism JUST to get some gas or a cup of tea.
Church's natural details are amazing, his writing is both polished and crisp, and his story is superbly well-crafted (I can imagine the idea for Inspector O slowly evolving and being worked and turned and rolled-over in Church's creative pocket like an odd, but beautiful piece of dark persimmon wood). Not since reading my first Olen Steinhauer have I been this excited to discover a new (for me) genre writer.
16 of 17 people found this review helpful
The setting of this book really sounded interesting--North Korea. Then add a mystery, and I was really looking forward to reading this book, but it really disappointed me. It's the first book in a series, and "introduces" Inspector O. But that was one of my big problems. I'm one that always likes to read the first book in a series just so I can get a really good feel for the main character. This book is actually told from the perspective of Insoector O being interrogated about a crime. Unfortunately, that left very little opportunity to get any background on Inspector O. The setting was a different matter. I got a real feel for the mountainous scenery and different buildings of the area.
Someone is found dead in a hotel. But inspector O was sent on a diversion assignment to photograph a specific place at a specific time. Many chapters later, we see that all this was a diversion that Inspector O tried to muddle through on his own ethical terms, but the North Korean government wanted to keep their actual crimes covered up. This was not really developed sufficiently in my mind. I found the back and forth between interrogating and first person narrative a bit confusing also.
Though I found lots of potential to like, I think James Church (a pseudo name for an actual North Korean spy) could have done so much more to introduce this character and develop his mystery. Unsure if I would read more of these book or not, though the North Korean aspect still intrigues me.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful