A Corpse in the Koryo

James Church        Pages: 280         Published: 2006

The book: Inspector O is a police detective in Pyongyang, North Korea. Early one morning he is sitting on a remote hillside outside the city, waiting for a mystery car that he has been told will appear from the south. His job is to photograph it. The body of a dead foreigner is found in the Koryo hotel. Two very senior officials are interested in both the car and the dead foreigner but will not say why. Are the two things connected? Will Inspector O work out what is going on? Can he stay alive while doing so?

You might like it because: Church creates a very vivid and believable version of life in the oppressive North Korean state. Readers will root for Inspector O, who is a compelling and likeable maverick, (at least as much of a maverick as one imagines it’s possible to be in North Korea). The story will keep you guessing right to the end.

What did other people say?
“An impressive debut that calls to mind such mystery thrillers as Martin Cruz Smith’s Gorky Park.”      – Publishers Weekly

“On the surface, A Corpse in the Koryo is a crackling good mystery novel, filled with unusual characters involved in a complex plot that keeps you guessing to the end.”
– Glen Kessler The Washington Post

Awards & Recognition:
One of Publishers Weekly Top 100 Books of 2006

How quickly will you get into the book? I found the book had a slow start, but it piqued my interest around page twenty-five.

You might not like it because: It’s a very complicated plot and nothing is quite as it seems, so it’s hard to work out what’s going on. At the end of the book Inspector O understands what has happened, but the reader might not.

What might you read next?
Some reviewers compared Inspector O to Arkady Renko, the Soviet Chief Inspector in Martin Cruz Smith’s Gorky Park. Read it and see if you agree.

Or move away from detective novels but stick with stories set in North Korea.  Read Pulitzer Prize winner The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson.

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