A deepening mystery with a religious edge—and a world away from the weak tea of Dan Brown.
Sgt. Nam is a man who is neither here nor there. From a small country town in Korea, he had an adolescence so blank that it "left no memories, sad or happy.” He is not especially good at his job but not bad, either, and the job “afforded neither satisfaction nor regret.” He became a cop after dropping out of an utterly mediocre university. What he does know, with the passage of time, is that time passes too quickly, and now his own life is quickened by the discovery of an odd manuscript surrounding an even odder missing persons case, the disappeared person in question a seminarian who, as his writings reveal, had been concocting a decidedly contrarian version of Christianity that would have occasioned an auto-da-fé in an earlier time. For Sgt. Nam, “whose life had long been spent among statements written in a clichéd style full of Chinese characters, the words were barely comprehensible.” Yet, finally engaged, he presses on, hoping to find clues in the godly fellow’s writings, even as Min Yoseop’s manuscript becomes more pointed and less acquiescent to the orthodox view: if the meek and the poor are the inheritors and true owners of the world, then why do they have nothing? And more, as the protagonist asks Jesus, “Why did you so rashly show a miracle you will not employ again? Don’t you realize that you will only be able to impress them again with an even greater miracle?” Adultery, apostasy, homicide, assumed identities—all figure in the tale, even if its dominant tone is one of anomie. The story takes time to unfold, and the close is a little too obvious, but it’s an engaging intellectual mystery all the same.
Think of it as a Korean rejoinder to The Name of the Rose, with some Kazantzakis thrown in for good measure.