A Corpse in the Koryo  - James Church

A Corpse in the Koryo by James Church is the first in the series of crime novel featuring Inspector O, set in the totalitarian country of North Korea.  The novels opens with Inspector O, handed with a camera waiting on a hill, waiting for a car to pass, which he is supposed to take a snap of. The car comes and goes, hooting its horn, but the Inspector fails to take any picture of it. As his failure is reported, he gets involved in a conspiracy involving departments, ministries, army officers, and a few dead bodies.


Colin Cotterrill writes funny and interesting crime novels set in Laos. James Church tried tyo write a serious crime novel, and also tried to make it interesting. He ‘TRIED’, but for me he did not succeed, at least not fully. The book gave me a great view of the country ruled by madmen where there happens to be no form of public amenities and the officers are law onto themselves. We can believe this as the reports clearly points out the sorry state of affairs of North Korea, and as Mr. Church happens to be a former western intelligence officer stationed there, the scenes painted are doubly believable.


But, sadly this book was not meant to be a commentary on North Korea. It was meant to be a crime novel set in the country. Yes, there was a crime, but what the crime was, and why the failure to click one picture can make a man run all over the country, is not revealed until the very last pages. This becomes a bit tiring. Without any clue as to what is going on the book became slow. The events portrayed seemed haphazard and I had difficulty to sew a lace between one scene and the one happening next to it. The ending when it came seemed plausible enough for a spy fiction; it was well balanced with very few loose ends. But, without any inkling as to what is happening or why our protagonist is on the run, the book falls flat in the middle section, and it becomes a bit difficult to not stop reading and pick up something else.


Inspector O, ran all over the place, and was made to look like an American P.I. His dialogues made him appear as such. Sometimes it became confusing that’s whether the lines are delivered by an officer of Pyongyang or by Spencer of Boston.


Though not a dull book by any standards, and people looking for a broader perspective(whatever that may mean) in their crime novels will surely enjoy this book. But, I, when searching for a crime novel set in Aisa will happily stick to Dr. Siri of Laos.