The Plotters

I was immediately intrigued when a publicist emailed me to inquire about the possibility to review Un-Su Kim's American debut. Indeed, it's been a very long time since a novel's premise piqued my curiosity to such a degree. The Plotters felt like the perfect book to bring along on my latest Southeast Asian adventure.

And I now understand why the author has won Korea's most prestigious literary prize, for this quirky thriller was a delightful read!

Here's the blurb:

From the novelist dubbed “the Korean Henning Mankell” (The Guardian) comes a fantastical crime novel set in an alternate Seoul where assassination guilds compete for market dominance. Perfect for fans of Han Kang and Patrick deWitt.

Behind every assassination, there is an anonymous mastermind–a plotter–working in the shadows. Plotters quietly dictate the moves of the city’s most dangerous criminals, but their existence is little more than legend. Just who are the plotters? And more important, what do they want?

Reseng is an assassin. Raised by a cantankerous killer named Old Raccoon in the crime headquarters “The Library,” Reseng never questioned anything: where to go, who to kill, or why his home was filled with books that no one ever read. But one day, Reseng steps out of line on a job, toppling a set of carefully calibrated plans. And when he uncovers an extraordinary scheme set into motion by an eccentric trio of young women–a convenience store clerk, her wheelchair-bound sister, and a cross-eyed librarian–Reseng will have to decide if he will remain a pawn or finally take control of the plot.

Crackling with action and filled with unforgettable characters, The Plotters is a deeply entertaining thriller that soars with the soul, wit, and lyricism of real literary craft.

Set in and around an alternate Seoul, Kim's narrative truly gives life to the city and its surroundings. His lyrical prose (or perhaps it's the top-quality translation) creates an imagery that leaps off the page. The author's wit and sarcasm imbue this novel with a dark humor that is totally apropos of the story he's recounting. To a vast extent, this thriller is also a blistering socio-political commentary on the corruption of institutions in Korea and the rest of the world.

One thing's for sure: It's well nigh impossible to put a label on Un-Su Kim's The Plotters. Some claim it's Kill Bill meets Murakami. Others say it's Tarantino meets David Lynch. It's all that, and it's not. It's all that and more. Hard to say.

The characterization was by far my favorite aspect of this book. Not since Carlos Ruiz Zafon have I encountered a writer who can come up with genuine, three-dimensional protagonists seemingly on the fly. I don't know how Kim does it, but in a few short sentences he can introduce you to a character who possesses so much depth and personality. The Plotters is filled with memorable men and women that stand out. And though Reseng takes center stage, the novel would never have been the same without the unforgettable supporting cast.

This is a thriller, so the pace is fluid throughout and you'll reach the end of this book is no time. The Plotters is a dark, quirky, action-packed, thought-provoking, and entertaining work of fiction. Hopefully the first of many Un-Su Kim's novels to be translated into English, for I'm persuaded I won't be the only reader wishing to delve into the author's backlist and whatever he publishes next.

The final verdict: 8/10

Follow this link to read an extract. I'm sure you won't be able to stop there!

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

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