A complex debut mystery introducing Inspector O, who works out of North Korea’s Ministry of People’s Security.
Inspector O thought his mission was a waste of time. He’d been sent to a hilltop to photograph a certain black Mercedes as it passed by, but with usual North Korean inefficiency, the camera didn’t work. The task, however, had drawn the attention of his immediate supervisor, Chief Inspector Pak; Deputy Director Kang, of the rival investigative division; and Colonel Kim, from the military security command, who dislikes everyone and has been purging them all with extreme prejudice. Without understanding why, O is sent from headquarters in Pyongyang first to Kanggye, then to Manpo, down to Sinnanpo and finally to Hyangsan. Each stop reveals security headaches, including rival car-smuggling ventures, a Finnish corpse no one wants to claim, a sultry lady who may be a secret agent and intervention by O’s disowned brother, whom he hasn’t spoken to in five years. As alliances are shuffled, the danger to O escalates. He’ll have to identify the killer of a small farm boy before he can understand who has Pak, Kang and him in his sights.
Gripping, although a touch inscrutable. The pseudonymous Church, himself a former intelligence officer, doesn’t believe in linear plotting but is an admirable stylist.