Set in North Korea, this is probably a 'first' to portray a very enigmatic police inspector in a very enigmatic country. Inspector O is the man set up by the communist military regime to solve a very strange case of mafia-style car thieving. Except that it isn't quite as it seems.
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Inspector O is a pawn (with a bite!) as it soon becomes apparent that some very senior officials have an agenda of their own which is carried out with stark brutality. Alongside this almost total disregard for death is the excellent Inspector, trying to work out who is pulling his strings.
His own chief sends him into the country near the Chinese border to try to get to the bottom of the mysterious goings-on but, as ever, he cannot escape the main suspect who seems to playing him almost like a fish!
Then, as is usual for Inspector O, he is called back to the capital before he can complete his investigations when a body of a foreigner turns up in the city's main hotel; which of the regimes is setting up the Inspector yet again for a very large – if not permanent – tumble from grace and how all this finally relates to the death of his parents during the war and the connection his now deceased grandfather had to Chief Inspector Pak, perhaps Inspector O's one and only remaining friend.
The story is a flashback in fact with some very clever flash-forwards to Inspector O's de-briefing with a British spook. Both the body in the hotel, the curious case of the stolen cars, escape into China and the powerful but nonetheless criminal military figures all come together so that only in the last few pages do we learn the answers.
The review of this Book prepared by michael watson