A Corpse in the Koryo (Mystery: James Church) c. 2006

Summary: For Inspector O, the grandson of a hero of the revolution serving as an officer in the North Korean police force, the assignment seems simple. Be on a hill, at a certain time, and photograph a particular car as it travels north. Soon, however, he finds himself caught up in a byzantine plot to cover up a series of kidnappings and murders from decades before. Will O be able to find his way out of the ever tightening net? This is the first book in the Inspector O series.

Review: As any review of this book will tell you, James Church is a former intelligence officer with experience in East Asia. He uses that experience to good effect here, in drawing a vivid picture of a country closed to the outside world. The plot of the story, which won effusive praise from reviewers, did not grab this reader. Most of the plot struck me as so subtle that it bordered on the opaque, and left me feeling that I followed a man stumbling blindly from one random scenario into another. This type of spy thriller may appeal to some, but it did little for me. There are currently four books in the series.

Read-a-likes: This series is often compared to Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko series, which is set in Russia; in my opinion, most of what Church tries to do here is done better by Smith.¬†Another story of an honest policeman struggling against the insanity of a totalitarian regime, also set in Stalinist Russia, is Tom Rob Smith’s Child 44. Those interested in reading more stories set in North Korea should check out The Ginseng Hunter by Jeff Talarigo.

Availability: This item is available from the Lake Bluff Public Library as a book. Click here to check on the availability!

Review by Eric.


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