North Korea’s Inspector O investigates a daring bank robbery.
Droll Inspector O begins his tale with a visit from his uptight new boss, Min, who’s too anxious to sit. Min, who’s replaced the looser Chief Inspector Pak, shot during a complex mission (A Corpse in the Koryo, 2006), puts O on a “category three” probe of a bank robbery, the first ever in busy downtown Pyongyang. O points out that bank robberies are never solved and wonders how the thieves got hold of silk stockings in North Korea. In response, Min warns that if O doesn’t close the case in jig time, he’ll be transferred to a cold and lonely outpost. The frequent verbal sparring between Inspector O and Min forms a welcome spine for the novel, which ranges far and wide. Taking a dead thief as his starting point, O soon finds himself shadowed by government agents; Min sheepishly confesses that the State Security Department is also assigned to the case. O’s interview of flirtatious noodle parlor owner Miss Pyon is cut short by the abrupt death of a patron at a nearby table. His path to the final solution includes a monk, all manner of humorless government workers and his own capture and torture.
O’s second outing is for readers who enjoy the journey more than the destination—especially those who appreciate Church’s stylish prose and incisive portrait of modern North Korea.