Tuesday, 29 January 2019

The Plotters by Un-su Kim @mattclacher @4thEstateBooks #ThePlotters Translated by Sora Kim-Russell @spacenakji

Plotters are just pawns like us. A request comes in and they draw up the plans. There’s someone above them who tells them what to do. And above that person is another plotter telling them what to do. You think that if you go up there with a knife and stab the person at the very top, that’ll fix everything. But no-one’s there. It’s just an empty chair.
Reseng was raised by cantankerous Old Raccoon in the Library of Dogs. To anyone asking, it’s just an ordinary library. To anyone in the know, it’s a hub for Seoul’s organised crime, and a place where contract killings are plotted and planned. So it’s no surprise that Reseng has grown up to become one of the best hitmen in Seoul. He takes orders from the plotters, carries out his grim duties, and comforts himself afterwards with copious quantities of beer and his two cats, Desk and Lampshade.
But after he takes pity on a target and lets her die how she chooses, he finds his every move is being watched. Is he finally about to fall victim to his own game? And why does that new female librarian at the library act so strangely? Is he looking for his enemies in all the wrong places? Could he be at the centre of a plot bigger than anything he’s ever known?

The Plotters by Un-Su Kim is published by 4th Estate in February 2019. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

When I was approached by Matt from 4th Estate about The Plotters, I must admit that I was hesitant. I'd heard that Korean Noir was going to be 'the thing', but this really did sound way out of my comfort zone. However, the premise intrigued me, and I love the cover, so I threw caution to the wind and said yes, bring it on.

So, I've read it and I've enjoyed the experience. The story opens with such a hook of a first chapter that I'd defy anyone not to read on!
It's a real punch in the guts sort of feeling and the writing is really engaging and excellently translated by Sora Kim-Russell.

The Plotters is way out of my comfort zone, I still think that, and I'm not sure that I'd be falling over myself to read more straight away, but I was pleasantly surprised by the whole thing.
The Plotters are assassins, they hire out people to kill people. It's really as simple as that, and as one would expect, this book has its gritty and quite violent moments. However, anyone who is a fan of the crime / thriller / noir genre will expect this I'd hope.

I love the main character! Whilst Resang is a hired killer, he's also a fan of reading and cats and beer, and who can argue with any of that? He was brought up in the Library of Dogs by a guy called Old Racoon after being left in a rubbish bin as a baby.

There's a fair amount of politics within this story, and we come across corruption and greed galore. I'll admit that some of this went a little over my head; I was far more interested in just what Resang would do next, and loved his supporting characters; especially Bear, who'd get rid of bodies for a fee!

So, my first foray into the world of Korean Noir, and I don't think it will be my last. For me, it was the characters who sold this to me; the plot was well thought out, but I did struggle to keep up with the politics at times. Witty and made me giggle out loud at times, as well as grimacing a few times along the way. I'd certainly recommend this if you fancy a change from your usual crime fiction!

UN-SU KIM was born in 1972 in Busan and is the author of several highly praised novels. He has won the Munhakdongne Novel Prize, Korea’s most prestigious literary prize, and was nominated for the 2016 Grand Prix de Littérature Policière. 

The translator, Sora Kim-Russell, is a Korean American living in Seoul, where she teaches translation.

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