The murder of a diplomat’s wife brings a different kind of pressure on a dogged young police inspector.
In the middle of a blizzard in the winter of 1997, North Korean Inspector O and his nervous supervisor, Chief Inspector Pak, bring in for questioning a suspicious foreigner whose playful answers indicate a lack of concern and whose explanation of his nationality—his passport says he’s Swiss—keeps changing. Newly appointed to the Ministry of Public Security, O presents his story in a narrative that bristles with iconoclasm and intellectual curiosity. When O and Pak let the man go after questioning, they’re scolded by two visiting Public security operatives. A short time later, one of the pair dies in a horrible car accident, and Pak wonders if there are other forces at work. But the arrival of a huge, unusual and confusing case abruptly consumes them. They’re ordered to gather information on the death of a North Korean general’s daughter. The only clue is her telephone request to her father for a music book he can no longer find. The daughter, a diplomat’s wife, was in Pakistan when she died, and murder is suspected. Amazingly, the trail leads through both the droll foreigner and the victim of that car accident.
Former intelligence officer Church’s third Inspector O mystery, set a decade before the first two (Hidden Moon, 2007, etc.), finds the inspector no less acerbic and the author no more straightforward. This one’s by turns dazzling and boring, frustrating and insightful.