A Corpse in the Koryo: Book summary and reviews of A Corpse in the Koryo by James Church

A Corpse in the Koryo

An Inspector O Novel, #1

by James Church

A Corpse in the Koryo by James Church
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  • Published in USA  Oct 2006
    288 pages
    Genre: Noir

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Book Summary

Against the backdrop of a totalitarian North Korea, one man unwillingly uncovers the truth behind series of murders, and wagers his life in the process.

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.

Like Philip Kerr's Berlin Noir trilogy and the Inspector Arkady Renko novels, A Corpse in the Koryo introduces another unfamiliar world, a perplexing universe seemingly so alien that the rules are an enigma to the reader and even, sometimes, to Inspector O. Author James Church weaves a story with beautifully spare prose and layered descriptions of a country and a people he knows by heart after decades as an intelligence officer. This is a chilling portrayal that, in the end, leaves us wondering if what at first seemed unknowable may simply be too familiar for comfort.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Despite the exotic setting, Hammett and Chandler would have had no problem appreciating this hard-boiled narrative." - Publishers Weekly.

"Starred Review. The writing is superb, too, well above the level usually associated with a first novel, richly layered and visually evocative." - Booklist.

"Starred Review ..... an outstanding crime novel. . . . a not-to-be-missed reading experience." - Library Journal.

"Church uses his years of intelligence work to excellent advantage here, delivering one duplicitous plot twist after another. Though often understated, the author's affection for the landscape and people of Korea is abundantly evident." - The Washington Post.

"The pseudonymous Church, himself a former intelligence officer, doesn't believe in linear plotting but is an admirable stylist." - Kirkus Reviews.

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Author Information

James Church Author Biography

James Church (a pseudonym) is a former Western intelligence officer with decades of experience in Asia. He has wandered through Korea for years. No matter what hat he wore, Church says, he ran across Inspector O many times.

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