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Bamboo and Blood: An Inspector O Novel Hardcover – November 25, 2008

Book 3 of 5 in the Inspector O Novels Series

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 294 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (November 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312372914
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312372910
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,088,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Church once again does a brilliant job of portraying the dysfunctional, paranoid society of modern North Korea in his third novel to feature Inspector O of the ministry of public security (after 2007's Hidden Moon). When a foreigner O has been assigned to watch turns out to be working for Israeli intelligence, O and his supervisor, Pak, come under the scrutiny of a rival security service. To complicate matters, Pak asks the inspector to investigate the murder of a North Korean diplomat's wife in Pakistan, but O is restricted to merely collecting facts about the dead woman. O's efforts to actually solve the crime lead to dangerous encounters with his country's special weapons program. While the espionage elements compel, the book's main strength, as with its predecessors, derives from the small details that enable the reader to imagine life in North Korea—and from O's struggles to maintain his principles and integrity. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* It is brutal winter in North Korea, the first winter after the death of Beloved Leader. His son and successor is grieving, and the country’s survival is threatened by famine and infrastructure collapse. Even in Pyongyang, government employees are hungry and cold. Word of mouth from the countryside and their own experiences cause Inspector O and Chief Inspector Pak to fear that the nation has “fallen apart.” But even as the country lurches toward collapse, foreigners interested in guided missiles stream into North Korea. O is sent to Geneva, ostensibly to ensure that the head of a diplomatic delegation doesn’t defect. There, Swiss, Israeli, and North Korean agents alternately charm and menace him, and O doesn’t even know what his superiors really want of him. The sketch of the most secretive country in the world is as spare and elegant as a Japanese painting. The machinations and motivations of the unseen politicians who pull O’s strings can’t be fathomed. Pak, O’s politically astute superior, often speaks in what sound like Zen koans. O is left to rely on himself and the wisdom of his animist-woodworker grandfather for guidance. Bamboo and Blood, the third in this outstanding series, invites readers to take a step through the looking glass. Thoughtful crime fans will love what they find. --Thomas Gaughan

Customer Reviews

The lead characters are quirky, interesting and likable.
Bob Sigall
The third Inspector O investigation (see CORPSE IN THE KORYO and HIDDEN MOON) is once again a great tale more so because of a the deep look into North Korea.
Harriet Klausner
If you like neat puzzles with tight solutions, you will be frustrated by this book.
WLS

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By James Neville on March 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Bamboo and Blood by James Church is "an Inspector O" novel. I did not know what that meant when I picked it up but I soon found out. The prologue starts, "The Russians... think they are the only ones who know the cold," then jumps right into action.

I've been reading mysteries placed in Red China, Thailand, and now, with Inspector O, in Red Korea. Who knew it would be so entertaining, so warm, so enigmatic, so humorous? (Not giving away the plot here, OK?) Suffice it to say missles are involved (somewhat) and that I'm going to read more by the author, James Church.

Church's bio asserts a) His name's a pseudonym, b) He was with Western intelligence for decades in Asia, and c) Many of the events in the story really happened. That's nice but what I care about is the story engaged me from the start and I want to read more. All good mysteries have a mystery, yes, it's how they work, but the reason we read them is the milieu, characters, surprises, new perspectives.

I remember the same thrill first reading Len Deighton's novels about East and West Berlin. That's the closest I can come to sharing the feel of Bamboo and Blood, except now it's North and South Korea.

Inspector O is a reading pleasure!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on April 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The idea of a North Korean inspector/detective is great. We (in the West) have trouble imagining earnest, hard-working investigators working to solve crimes in a nation that does not follow the rule of law. That is the first and primary paradox in both the Inspecter O series and the Gorky Park type books set in the former USSR.

The author depicts a totalitarian stranglehold where the army spies on the police, schools are empty because teachers and students are quietly starving to death, orders can mean the opposite of what they say and innocence can mean guilt. It is a land of subtlety and nuance as is the book. The ever-present drabness and bitter cold was an integral part of the psyche, yet another obstacle to overcome in order to survive.

The story (***** Warning - Plot talk - ******) centers around talks on North Korean atomic weapons and attempts to either advance or derail the talks. All the while, Israeli agents attempt to offer a trade: Cessation of missile technology in exchange for money and aid. In the midst of the cloak and dagger sleuthing, Inspector O is told to investigate the death of a woman who may have been in Pakistan. He is given no details. In other words, he is NOT to dig too deeply. He travels to New York and Zurich, observing the abundance of the West with distant melancholy. Yet he refuses to defect, whether out of duty, honor or lack of choice we can't be sure. As he probes deeper, he must watch the shifting alliances within the regime, each scheming to survive the long, dark winter. The search for loyalties is as difficult as the elusive search for the dead woman.

My Grade - A+
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on December 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In North Korea the Ministry of Public Security Inspector O is assigned to follow a foreigner. O quickly realizes the outsider is working for the Israelis. However, O also realizes that at least one or more other government security agencies are watching him and his superior Chief Inspector Pak.

Meanwhile Pak assigns O to investigate the murder of a North Korean diplomat's wife in Pakistan. However, he is warned not to solve the case, but to only gather known facts about the victim. Bristling over the limitation, O tries to solve the homicide, which only leads to more trouble for the dedicated inspector from other security agencies for his clues lead to the top secret special weapons program.

The third Inspector O investigation (see CORPSE IN THE KORYO and HIDDEN MOON) is once again a great tale more so because of a the deep look into North Korea. O is excellent as he knows other agencies are spying on him to insure he learns very little as the need to know is always restricted. The whodunit and the Israeli espionage caper are both well written to showcase Inspector O's skills and the paranoia of a regime that sees everyone even loyal citizens as the enemy.

Harriet Klausner
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By C. Richard VINE VOICE on April 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a review of the latest (third) installment in the Inspector O series by James Church.

Of the three books in the series (so far), I think this one is the second best. The first in the series, A Corpse in the Koryo, is the best in the series (and a really great book).

This book is set in the 1990's during the North Korean famine, but this stays more or less in the background in many respects. Inspector O spends a large part of the book in Geneva in any case - plenty of cloak and dagger there and even a love interest of sorts. Strangely enough, his boss Pak is back, although he died in an earlier book - maybe they are not coming out "chronologically". Pak was a really good character, so it is nice to see him again.

The thing that I missed here was the local color of North Korea that was so extensive in the first book - there was some here, but not that much. As in all the books, Inspector O investigates, but things are never quite fully resolved (or not resolved at all) by the end, which is a little less than satisfying. It is never quite clear (even to the Inspector) why things are being investigated, or if they really tie together. But then, North Korea is a bizarre place and maybe this is all part of a game generated by the jockeying for power among the top dogs. Unlike the other books, there is some attempt to explain at the end, but it does fall a little short.

Overall, this is a much better book than the second in the series, but no where near as good as the first. It is still worth a read.
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