A Corpse in the Koryo 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 wildf

  • Title: A Corpse in the Koryo
  • Author: JamesChurch
  • ISBN: 9780312352080
  • Page: 499
  • Format: Hardcover
  • 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 departmeAgainst 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 Critical Acclaim for The Corpse in the Koryo 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 Korea setting a feeling of palpable reality, depicting the nature of daily life under a totalitarian government not just with broad sociopolitical descriptions but also with specific everyday details There is also a little of Martin Cruz Smith s early Arkady Renko novels here The writing is superb, too, well above the level usually associated with a first novel, richly layered and visually evocative Booklist starred review

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    One thought on “A Corpse in the Koryo”

    1. Read it quick before North Korea decides you can't!Kim Jong-il wasn’t just another fascist dictator whose only hobby was firing cruise missile over Japan when he got bored. He was also reportedly an incredible golfer. According to the state newspaper, the first time he ever played, Kim finished 18 holes in just 34 shots. Which would be 25 shots lower than the best official round ever played and would mean that he hit multiple holes-in-one in a single round. With the whole country so completely [...]

    2. This was one of those books that starts out as a mystery and finisheswell, pretty much the same - still a mystery. Part police story and part 007 spy drama, you never quite know what exactly is going on. The protagonist, Inspector O, (at least I can spell his name)is ordered about from pillar to post on a series of investigative odd jobs. He seems as mystified as the reader regarding the deaths and corruption encountered during the course of his investigative meanderings.I'll be the first to adm [...]

    3. One of my coworkers is married to an editor for St. Martin's, and he came to a company party one time with a bunch of free books. Among the stack, I saw A Corpse in the Koryo and the title made me give it a second glance. The fact that it was set in North Korea sold me -- my sisters are adopted from South Korea, and I've had some interest in both countries for some time now.The book's pacing is not particularly speedy, but it doesn't ever get bogged down either. The plot ticks away as more chara [...]

    4. I agree with the general sentiments of most of the reviews on here.I liked a lot of things about the book. I thought the character of Inspector O was interesting and engaging, and I was particularly moved by his relationship with both his grandfather and with his boss, Pak. In many ways, I liked the atmosphere set by the author, and really appreciated his attention to the small detail, as well as his evocative descriptions of people and places.That said, I'm not entirely sure that the actual plo [...]

    5. There are quite a few reasons that this shouldn't be a winner, not least that the plotlines equivocate and cross themselves, while the reader is left with twelve shaggy-dog threads to tie together in the end. That is, if the reader is only interested in making some kind of logical structure out of the plot.But there are two main things working in favor of A Corpse In The Koryo, the simplest of which is that Mr Church happens to be a former intelligence officer with 'decades of experience in East [...]

    6. In the same vein of decent cops working for dictatorial regimes like my recently read Thirty-Three Teeth is James Church's A Corpse in the Koryo. Here, however, the atmosphere is far darker. Where Cotterill plays up the absurdities of the Pathet Lao's regime, Church's North Korean bureaucrats are vicious thugs and the slightest mistake could (and does) cost lives.Inspector O is the grandson of a respected general and war hero, which gives him a certain amount of freedom denied his peers but it's [...]

    7. An amazing and ambitious first novel. Think of it as Raymond Chandler gets hardboiled and eaten cold by a North Korean bureaucracy where the good guys don't just battle crime, but have to fight through a broken, Kafkaesque maze of political nihilism, factionalism, and stoic fatalism JUST to get some gas or a cup of tea. Church's natural details are amazing, his writing is both polished and crisp, and his story is superbly well-crafted (I can imagine the idea for Inspector O slowly evolving and b [...]

    8. I initially felt that I would like this, but then found it a little difficult to get into - possibly because I was distracted by another, very compelling book, so I temporarily put this one aside to finish that one. When I came back to it, it felt a little disjointed but I don’t know whether that was because my reading was interrupted, or because I was comparing the writing style to the other (excellent) book I’d just finished or whether this was truly disjointed.There are some good quotes t [...]

    9. This was one of those novels that plays with your head for a bit. Inspector O, a man of little importance in the Ministry of People's Security finds himself thrown into a case of smuggling, illicit dealing, a Western reporter, and a beautiful girl named Lena. But it's more than a tale of finding out whodunnit. There's little touches of unexpected beauty, classic Korean poetry, and a real sense of being there. If you like your thrillers to be tense and nervewracking, this will do quite nicely. Th [...]

    10. A highlight in my collection of detective novels with protagonists who are morally ambivalent participants in repressive regimes--in this case, the detective is an investigator for North Korean state security called up on to handle a death in one of Pyongyang's few hotels for foreigners. He is the grandson of a revolutionary hero and thus both protected and keenly aware of his shield and its origin. The specific, everyday details are affecting, and I am always impressed with motives and antagoni [...]

    11. First in a series set in North Korea written by a "former Western intelligence officer with decades of experience in Asia," which shows. I can't wait to get my hands on Hidden Moon.

    12. It took me more than three years to get round to this first in the Inspector O series, after enjoying the Hidden Moon, the second in the series (my brief review here: /review/show). What can I say? I'm as inefficient in my reading priorities as a North Korean minister. What was true of his second novel is true of the first -- its strong points are being set in North Korea and the compelling hero being a fish out of water in the authoritarian state. A weak point is a convoluted plot that we can h [...]

    13. Practically nothing works. Government, police protection, buildings, cars, roads, appliances, telephones — whatever: they’re either falling apart, damaged beyond repair, or, if you’re lucky, barely functioning. Welcome to North Korea in the 21st century, where nothing gets done without a bribe, and it’s even difficult to find a cup of tea when you want one.Just for example, “The train to Pyongyang was late. Not like some places, where a late train means twenty minutes, even an hour on [...]

    14. I can see why the reviews are all over the place for this book - it's definitely not your typical mystery, though the more I think on it, the more I wonder if that's not a misclassification anyway. Koryo is by any measure one weird hybrid of a book. With the intrigue and politics it's easy to think of John Le Carre, and the dark richness of the descriptions is definitely Raymond Chandler's noir all over, but then things get a bit harder to describe. It's more travelogue than police procedural, l [...]

    15. Well-written and compelling, the novel moves back and forth through time as North Korean Police Inspector O is drawn into a case which starts as a simple stakeout of a lonely highway. As one body after another is discovered, the investigation becomes like a dangerous maze with no clear way out and very few allies on whom he can rely. There are so many secrets, and everyone seems to know more than our beleaguered policeman with the soul of a carpenter. One drawback is that there are so many twist [...]

    16. Pleased to meet Inspector O, a man of hidden depths. My introduction to North Korea was certainly influenced by the events taking place at the time. To say I felt a bit anxious would be an understatement. The constant mistrust hanging about, the not knowing what was really going on and the need to keep thoughts where they originate created a muscle tension that must permeate the whole of the country. With my western thought processes I found I was forced to alter my thinking in order to understa [...]

    17. North Korean spy novel/police procedural may sound like a tough concept for any author to tackle, but Church does about as well as anyone could wish. Inspector O (who I first came across through Church's short blog posts on 38 North) is a fine match for any noir protagonist, and though the twisting, violent plot can be hard to follow (even for those who've done some research on North Korean politics and history), it has a pitch-perfect atmospheret least because of the high body count by the end. [...]

    18. While the prose is very elegant and quite superior to most of those books in the genre, the plot was overly complicated and surprisingly uninteresting. Definitely not a page turner, and I really had to force myself to finish it.

    19. My first Inspector O novel. Set in North Korea, this novel captures the insularity, the repressiveness, the political intrigue, all the while unwinding a nifty little mystery for the Inspector. I will read more.

    20. A Corpse in the Koryo by James Church is the first in the series of crime novel featuring Inspector O, set in the totalitarian country of North Korea. The novels opens with Inspector O, handed with a camera waiting on a hill, waiting for a car to pass, which he is supposed to take a snap of. The car comes and goes, hooting its horn, but the Inspector fails to take any picture of it. As his failure is reported, he gets involved in a conspiracy involving departments, ministries, army officers, and [...]

    21. The novel follows Inspector O as he recounts his story of uncovering the plot behind a series of events he unwittingly finds himself in. He works for the North Korean Ministry of People's Security but Inspector O must rely on his own survival instincts and intelligence alongside assistance from political allies and his grandfather's political legacy. Inspector O himself has no real emotional reactions to events and is a malcontent at heart who challenges the status quo. The atmosphere of life in [...]

    22. A solid mystery novel. If not for a couple of glaring defects, I would gladly have rated it higher. First off, the mystery itself--though witty and entertaining--isn't as tight as I would have liked it to be. Secondly, the book does very little to expand your understanding as to the mindset of North Koreans. That seems damn near unforgivable in a novel which uses its setting as its primary selling point. But for whatever reason, James Church's Inspector O thinks and talks just like an American. [...]

    23. I have to admit that I didn't fully understand what was going on in this book It might very well be that the author did it on purpose to emphasize the complicated relationships between the various official (and not so official) organizations in North Korea. The book is an easy read and I liked the characters of Inspectors O & Pak. This novel is the first one I read that is set in North Korea, which I found quite interesting, and I'm looking forward to reading the other books in the series!

    24. I read these mystery/thrillers set in foreign lands as much for the insight into another culture as for the mystery, so this novel was a disappointment when I learned almost nothing about North Korea. It's an authoritarian system. Great. I didn't even get much of a sense of "asia-ness" about it. As for the actual mystery - nobody actually seemed to care about the "Corpse in the Koryo" hotel, and it's solution was a throwaway at the very end.

    25. Short and quick, but the plot didn't tug me a long like my favorite thrillers. What I enjoyed most about this book was the setting. North Korea is an interesting place that is often confusing for both the protagonist and the (western) reader. Still, it was like peaking behind the curtain and seeing an area that you aren't supposed to. For fans of the culture clash at the heart of John Burdett's Bangkok series.

    26. A murder mystery that takes place in North Korea. Caught my eye when I read a positive review of the book in the Washington Post by one of their intelligence reporters (either Pincus or Kessler. Can't remember which). But this book was so darned slow that I began to think I was the murder victim - or wished that I was. Worse yet, if I was the victim, I didn't care to know who killed me. I always believed that living in North Korea really sucked. Now I am convinced of it.

    27. This hard-boiled mystery should provide an insider’s view of North Korea given the pseudonymous author’s intelligence work there. But while there are glimpses of such insight, the setting of state control and social mistrust serves mainly as backdrop to a host of noir clichés only too familiar to Western readers. Corpse is deliciously dark and diverting, but less illuminating than might be hoped.

    28. Very odd book. Very well-written. Not sure if I understood what was going on half the time due to the political machinations and the utter foreign-ness of the setting (North Korea). It's a very unusual police detective novel. If you want something off the beaten track and totally different, this would be the book for you.

    29. I really wanted to like this book, I found the setting of North Korea very intriguing and thought this would hold my interest. Unfortunately, the pace is much too slow. I understand as a reader of a mystery we would be kept in the dark along with the Inspector, but I gave up after 120 pages. Just too slow.

    30. To imagine creating a detective story set in North Korea and then to create a believable hero in the character of Inspector O is impressive. A complex and twisting plot in an insane world.

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