An Inspector O Novel
By James Church
Minotaur Books, Hardcover, 9780312352097, 304pp.
Publication Date: October 30, 2007
In A Corpse in the Koryo, James Church introduced readers to one of the most unique detectives to appear on page in years---the elusive Inspector O. The stunning mystery was named one of the best mystery/thrillers of 2006 by the Chicago Tribune for its beautifully spare prose and layered descriptions of a terrain Church knows by heart.
And now the Inspector is back.
In Hidden Moon, Inspector O returns from a mission abroad to find his new police commander waiting at his office door. There has been a bank robbery---the first ever in Pyongyang---and the commander demands action, and quickly. But is this urgency for real? Somewhere, someone in the North Korean leadership doesn’t want Inspector O to complete his investigation. And why not? What if the robbery leads to the highest levels of the regime? What if power, not a need for cash, is the real reason behind the heist at the Gold Star Bank?
Given a choice, this isn’t a trail a detective in the Pyongyang police would want to follow all the way to the end, even a trail marked with monogrammed silk stockings. “I’m not sure I know where the bank is,” is O’s laconic observation as the warning bells go off in his head. A Scottish policeman sent to provide security for a visiting British official, a sultry Kazakh bank manager, and a mournful fellow detective all combine to put O in the middle of a spiderweb of conspiracies that becomes more tangled, and dangerous, the more he pulls on the threads.
Once again, as he did in A Corpse in the Koryo, James Church opens a window onto a society where nothing is quite as it seems. The story serves as the reader’s flashlight, illuminating a place that outsiders imagine is always dark and too far away to know. Church’s descriptions of the country and its people are spare and starkly beautiful; the dialogue is lean, every thought weighed and measured before it is spoken. Not a word is wasted, because in this place no one can afford to be misunderstood.
Critical Acclaim for A Corpse in the Koryo
“A Corpse in the Koryo is a crackling good mystery novel, filled with unusual characters involved in a complex plot that keeps you guessing to the end.”
---Glenn Kessler, The Washington Post
“The best unclassified account of how North Korea works and why it has survived . . . This novel should be required bedtime reading for President Bush and his national security team." ---Peter Hayes, executive director of the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainable Development
“A new offering that reminds you of why you started reading mysteries and thrillers in the first place.”
“What's perhaps most remarkable---and appealing---about A Corpse in the Koryo is the tremendously clever complexity (and deceptions) of the plot. The reader is left to marvel at the author's ability to keep his readers on their intellectual toes for almost three hundred pages. We can only hope that Church has many more novels up his sleeve.”
“An impressive debut that calls to mind such mystery thrillers as Martin Cruz Smith’s Gorky Park.”
---Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“In Inspector O, the author has crafted a complex character with rough charm to spare, and in eternally static North Korea, he has a setting that will fascinate readers for sequels to come.”
---Time magazine (Asia edition)
"Church creates an utterly convincing, internally consistent world of the absurd.... From the opening line ... it's clear that the reader is in the hands of an accomplished writer.... A thoroughly enjoyable ride, way down a rabbit hole to an upside-down world."
--The Boston Globe "Nothing short of brilliant.... Highly recommended."
--Library Journal "With wit and efficiency, Church masterfully evokes the challenges of enforcing the law in an authoritarian society and weds the intriguing atmosphere to a fast-moving and engaging plot."
--Publishers Weekly, Starred Review "Stylish prose and incisive portrait of modern North Korea."
--Kirkus Reviews "O's ... protective affection for his country is clear, as are his wry humor and moments of helpless humanity."