A fantastical crime novel set in an alternate Seoul where assassination guilds compete for market dominance.
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.
Potentially Sensitive Areas:
Booklist starred (November 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 6))
Reseng, 32, has been a professional assassin for 15 years, minus a short factory-worker stint at 22, while playing house with the love of his life. That he’s survived this long—never mind his risky career, he’s also a two-pack-a-day smoker with a beer-for-breakfast diet—is remarkable. Pulled from a garbage can as an infant, nunnery-raised until he turned four, Reseng then grew up fostered by a killer called Old Racoon, living in his “gloomy, labyrinthine library” named the Doghouse. Discovering literacy at nine (he never went to school), Reseng now avoids boredom and loneliness by reading books, from Sophocles to Calvino, in between his murderous assignments by “the plotters”—the elite, beyond-the-law puppet masters who control their putative democracy in post-military-dictatorship style. Reseng’s life continues smoothly enough until he finds a bomb in his toilet. Fortunately, he was Beer Week-upchucking; other-end purging would have been fatally explosive. His search for the bombmaker leads him to two orphaned sisters and a cross-eyed librarian from his past and onward to an ultimate plot that might save the world—or might not. The winner of prestigious prizes in Korea, Kim makes his anglophone debut, thanks to Kim-Russell, who captures his dark, dark wit and searing sarcasm in an irresistible sociopolitical parable designed to delight and dismay.
Kirkus Reviews (October 1, 2018)
An assassin in Seoul’s underworld is embroiled in a rivalry between the mysterious men who literally call the shots. Reseng, the hero of the first novel by Kim to appear in English, is a coldblooded killer whose lone-wolf persona seems stitched out of equal parts Jack Reacher and Harry Bosch. An orphan, he was raised for most of his life by Old Raccoon, a shady fixer who lives in a massive but neglected library while plotting murders. Reseng has been the don’t-ask-questions type until he learns that a colleague didn’t follow through on killing a prostitute like he was supposed to. And when that colleague is found dead, he’s moved to start investigating the “plotters” who make his world move. The answer to Reseng’s inquiries aren’t particularly engaging or surprising: Corporations and government leaders in South Korea plan killings to preserve power, amassing a small army of “washed-up assassins, gangsters, retired servicemen and former homicide detectives, tired of working for peanuts.” And of course, Reseng is a target himself, via a bomb installed in his toilet. The novel is somewhat redeemed from its stock plotting in its more visceral moments: There’s a lively gallows humor to scenes where Reseng pays regular visits to the man who cremates gang-war victims, and he casually slices off one man’s fingers as coolly as you might make a salad. Kim makes a few gestures toward literary gravitas, like a flashback to a woman in Reseng’s more innocent past and some riffing about the source of human violence. (“A handful of villains isn’t enough to affect the world. The world is like this because we’re too meek.” ) But between the convoluted plotting and myriad stylistic intentions, Kim hasn’t identified a clear target to hit. An energetic mashup of thriller tropes that doesn’t quite jell.
About the Author
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 la Littéraire Policière. He lives in Jinhae-gu, South Korea.
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