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CORPSE IN THE KORYO (Inspector O Novel) [Paperback]

James Church
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

11 Jun 2013 Inspector O Novel (Book 1)
Sit on a quiet hillside at dawn among the wildflowers; take a picture of a car coming up a deserted highway from the south. Simple orders for Inspector O, until he realizes they have led him far, far off his department's turf and into a maelstrom of betrayal and death. North Korea's leaders are desperate to hunt down and eliminate anyone who knows too much about a series of decades-old kidnappings and murders - and Inspector O discovers too late he has been sent into the chaos. This is a world where nothing works as it should, where the crimes of the past haunt the present, and where even the shadows are real. A corpse in Pyongyang's main hotel - the Koryo - pulls Inspector O into a confrontation of bad choices between the devils he knows and those he doesn't want to meet. A blue button on the floor of a hotel closet, an ice blue Finnish lake, and desperate efforts by the North Korean leadership set Inspector O on a journey to the edge of a reality he almost can't survive.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur; Reprint edition (11 Jun 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312374313
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312374310
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 14.1 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 300,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


This is a fine, intelligent, and exciting story that takes us into the netherworld of contemporary North Korean communism. It evokes the gray milieu without ever overstepping its mark, allowing us to see it from the inside rather than the outside, wherein the humanity of all the characters, both good and evil, is apparent. Inspector O is a particularly wonderful creation, a true mensch attempting to hold on to his humanity in a world where humanism is under constant attack. Subtlety is the method, and the result is fantastic work that should mark the beginning of a brilliant career for James Church. ---Olen Steinhauer, author of Liberation Movements. For over fifty years Americans have tried to understand the world of North Korea. James Church does a better job of describing the isolated, impoverished, corrupt, and out- of-touch life in the North than anything I have seen. This novel is a must-read for anyone who would understand how precarious the dictatorship is.---Newt Gingrich, author of Winning Back the Future and Never Call Retreat. A gripping story of mystery and intrigue. The laconic Inspector O follows in the traditions of Inspector Arkady Renko, operating in a world of complexity and danger we're meeting here for the first time. ---Don Oberdorfer, author of Tet! Church's debut thriller breaks new ground. O is an original. This is an expert take on a complex, brutal, and mystifying society. Immerse yourself in it. ---Marshall Browne, author of Eye of the Abyss and the Inspector Anders series The Corpse in the Koryo is a spellbinder. Bloody and chilling, yet subtle in its psychological detail, with an amazing understanding of North Korea.Ezra F. Vogel, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences, Harvard University Asia Center
"The (pseudonymous) author, a veteran intelligence officer, has intimate knowledge of Asian life and politics, and it shows: He gives the North Kore --various

About the Author

James Church (pseudonym) is a former Western intelligence officer with decades of experience in Asia.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Forget it Inspector O, it's Pyongyang." 18 May 2007
This debut novel from a psuedonymous American intelligence officer has one big thing going for it -- an unfamiliar setting. Its protagonist is "Inspector O", a North Korean policeman who becomes entangled in a feud between rival North Korean intelligence units and must bob and weave to avoid ending up caught dead in the crossfire. While the book does an admirable job of giving a sense of the daily emptiness of life under a totalitarian regime, the plotting is rather oblique, and those expecting a standard mystery or thriller will likely leave disappointed. The story is told through a fairly clumsy framework, as Inspector O sits in a safe house in Prague being "interviewed" by an Irishman apparently working for MI5. Through this interview, which sometimes previews plot points (such as the deaths of central characters), Inspector O tells the story. Unfortunately it's never explained why the Inspector is being interviewed in this manner, and the format only detracts from any suspense.

The tale Inspector O tells is of how, after a routine stakeout operation, he is gets pushed all over the map by his direct superior and the mysterious intelligence operative named "Kang." It's all very unclear, since no one tells the inspector anything beyond "go there, wait here, etc." and the reader is simply tagging along from point A to point B in equal bewilderment. Fortunately the inspector is an appealing figure -- the grandson of a war hero, he's filled with a sardonic, but not overly rebellious, attitude toward those in power. It would have been easy to make him a cardboard closeted reformer, but the author wisely avoids that route, instead making him a somewhat romantic soul, resigned to a hard life and seeking solace and life in small chunks of wood.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Author "James Church," a former western intelligence officer with "decades of experience" in Asia, including, presumably, North Korea, provides a stunning and profoundly interesting portrait of "real life" in this secretive and sometimes paranoid country. Inspector O, the main character in Church's novel, works for the North Korean Ministry of People's Security, but even at the level of inspector, he has no idea why he is assigned many of his tasks, nor does he know why he is often sent from the capital, Pyongyang, to outposts like Manpo and Kanggye on the Chinese border. He can trust no one, and he must constantly watch his back to ensure that he does not accidentally discover information about crimes that he does not even know exist.

Though the inspector is inured to a life of uncertainly and to the inexplicable behavior of his superiors, most readers of mysteries have developed a set of expectations about plots and characters. This one ignores the "rules"--and may be all the more fascinating, as a result. The biggest mystery here, in fact, is what is the mystery? Neither Inspector O nor the reader has any idea what is going on or why. Any suggestion of a plot becomes even more ephemeral when it is interrupted regularly by an interrogation taking place in Prague by an Irish security official who is interviewing Inspector O, though we don't know why. The ambiguities of the plot are paralleled by the ambiguities of character. Inspector O is "round" enough to keep readers interested--he is iconoclastic and refuses to wear his badges, and he is the grandson of a man who was a hero of the revolution--but we learn almost nothing else about him, other than the fact that he would love to spend his time creating furniture.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Totalitarianism at its best 13 Jan 2007
This is not your usual detective noir set in foreign climes. For the simple reason that we're talking about North Korea, possibly one of the most bizzare places in the world. There were shades of "Fatherland" and "Berlin Noir" but, again, here we're talking about a country most of us has never read about. The pace, I felt, reflected the kafkaesque nature of North Korea perfectly.

Thoroughly reccomened.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A chink of light in a hidden world 3 Nov 2010
Having visited North Korea I found this novel spookily accurate. But I'd recommend it to anyone who likes crime fiction. Inspector O could be as big a cult detective as Wallander.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Quirky 24 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A cracking read, difficult to realise you are reading about N Korea but I guess people are people wherever they live.

Can thoroughly recommend this book.
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