Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Corpse in the Koyro: Additional comments

Here are a few additional comments about A Corpse in the Koryo, which I reviewed in the last post. One of the extra pleasures of reading this book is based on wood: Inspector O has a deep appreciation and understanding of wood from years of working with his grandfather, who was a master craftsman and artisan. This may seem like an odd subject to interject into a murder mystery, but it provides much authenticity to the setting and helps build a historical context that link accumulated childhood memories and present habits of the inspector. The author is extremely effective in managing providing glimpses of the past without ever seeming to be teaching a history lesson. The fact that trees end up playing a significant role in solving the murder might have seemed contrived in less capable hands. However, the inspector has to consult an outside expert on trees in this instance, so his innate grasp of the various qualities of wood from different sources did not provide him with a ready or simple solution to the important mystery. The remarkable story of Inspector O's sandpaper is particularly effective- at times amusing, and at other times sobering, because of what the sandpaper helps us learn about North Korean life.

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