A misanthropic inspector comes down from the mountain in near-future North Korea and lands deep in the soup.
After several years in retirement and self-imposed exile, acerbic narrator Inspector O is called back from his mountain retreat to Pyongyang enshrouded in a phalanx of secrecy. Questioned by the enigmatic Major Kim, a security officer from O’s first case, housed in a small and nondescript hotel room, and taken to an office for a series of cat-and-mouse conversations, O trades hints of capitulation for tidbits of information from Major Kim. One afternoon, he’s intercepted on the street by a former colleague named Li, who seems to be randomly driving by, and advised to be cooperative. Flashbacks reveal O’s placid retirement on the mountain and his disdain for both modernity and the current regime. At length, O agrees to go to the border of Macau, along with a grim captain who seems to be Major Kim’s sidekick, to investigate the brutal murder of a young woman—or, more specifically, to clear the name of a rising political star under suspicion. A single long-range bullet to the temple kills the captain and gives Inspector O’s investigation new urgency. Both politics and justice figure prominently in his meticulous probe.
Inspector O’s three earlier cases (Bamboo and Blood, 2008, etc.) all frequently detoured into (sometimes fascinating) woolgathering. His fourth takes so long to reach its main plot that even fans may find their loyalty tested.