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James Church's third Inspector O novel just doesn't quite deliver the goods. It starts out fine, blending hard-boiled noir (Hammett/Chandler) with international political thriller (le Carré/Steinhauer) mixed with a bit/dash of Hemingway.
Where Hemingway was fixated on food, wine and women, Church fixates on lack of food, the cold and wood. It all works, if you can ignore the sloppy pacing that creeps into the end of the novel. The novel's first 3/4 seems fine, not exceptional, but interesting and not too overdone, but with about 70 pages left it seems like Church loses all interest in the project and decides it will take entirely too much time and work to weave the various narrative threads back, so he just leaves them, or cuts them off completely.
The end of the novel reminded me of the butchered Geneva plane trees that Inspector O was so upset by. It is hard to love something that hasn't been allowed to freely grow to its potential. As Inspector O says of the plane trees, "They might wish they were dead. No, they have been mangled. Their tops have been hacked off. They are maimed."
15 of 16 people found this review helpful
This book was very good, on the line-by-line level: it reads like it was written by Chandler, and it's read by someone who knows how to interpret that, yet with an Asian flair. The story, though . . . I never really figured out what this book was actually about. Chandler famously had the McGuffin . . . this book seems more like the travelogue of a North Korean who similarly never really knows what's going on. It's a very interesting and well-told and amusing travelogue, with all kinds of vague skulduggery going on, but really . . . what is at stake?