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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Thursday, 14 November 2019

"The Plotters" by Un-Su Kim

Reseng is an assassin. He has been hired to kill an old man. He watches the old man and his dog: "The ferocious mastiff that had once hunted lions had been reduced to a clown."t (On Hospitality); this statement explicitly refers to the dog but it also applies to the old man who was a feared general but is now watering flowers in his garden, an assassin's target. Reseng meets the old man and is invited to stay for a meal. They discuss responsibility for death. If a boar is found in a poacher’s trap, should you kill it to ease its suffering (but take on the responsibility for its death yourself) or let it die? The old man recounts a tale of when he had to execute a boy who had just started eating a potato; would it have mattered had he allowed the boy to finish the potato? Soon Reseng is to permit a target to choose the way in which she will die and this will have consequences.

So begins this unusual book in which political assassination is ordered by Old Racoon from his library, a library in which Reseng, a foundling, grew up. Other venues include the Meat Market, where assassination is traded like a commodity on the stock exchange, a Cat Cafe and  knitting shop. This is a surreal thriller set in Korea.

Some great moments:

  • The old man started watering the flowers. Some received a gulp, some just a sip. He tipped the watering can with great ceremony, as if he was serving them tea. Now and then he did a little shoulder shimmy, as if dancing, and gave a petal a brief caress. He gestured at one of the flowers and chuckled. It looked like they were having a conversation.” (On Hospitality)
  • A man ought to be able to choose a death that gives his life a dignified ending. Only those who truly walk their own path can choose their own death.” (On Hospitality)
  • The older you get, the more you’re supposed to keep your purse strings open and your mouth shut.” (On Hospitality)
  • He grew up in a library crawling with assassins, hired guns, and bounty hunters. Just as a plant grows wherever it sets down roots, so all your life's tragedies spring from wherever you first set your feet.” (Achilles’ Heel)
  • The whole incident had felt as awful as if one of his buddies with a pocket full of sweets had stolen Reseng’s single sweet from his mouth.” (Achilles’ Heel)
  • Life made no sense.Why had Achilles bothered to cover his torso in armour, when he should have predicted his left heel, his one and only mortal weakness? Stupid idiot, even nine-year-olds know better.” (Achilles’ Heel)
  • It didn't matter how high you rose, how invincible your body was, or how firmly you clung to greatness, because all of it could vanish with a tiny, split-second mistake.” (Achilles’ Heel)
  • He was surprisingly cuddly looking for someone who burnt corpses for a living.” (Bear’s pet crematorium)
  • To the plotters, mercenaries and assassins were like disposable batteries. ... An old assassin was like an annoying blister bursting with incriminating information and evidence.” (Bear’s pet crematorium)
  • Kindness starts with having a full larder.” (Bear’s pet crematorium)
  • It doesn't matter whether a cat is white or black as long as it catches mice.” (ascribed to Deng Xioa Ping) (Bear’s pet crematorium)
  • Right above her mouth was a beauty spot that seemed disappointed not to have been born on Marilyn Monroe's face.” (The Doghouse Library)
  • I don't read for any particular reason. it's like you and your TV shows. I just don't know what else to do with my free time.” (Beer week)
  • Pointless compassion and sorrow, endlessly spawning apathy, and pent-up anger that had nowhere to go, swept around like dead leaves in late autumn until self-combusting. The final destination for fallen lives.” (The Meat Market): I love the play on words ‘fallen lives’ straight after ‘dead leaves in late autumn.
  • A home for those who had hit rock bottom so hard that you wished there were a gentle way to say ‘Hey, maybe in your case suicide isn't the worst idea.’” (The Meat Market)
  • The meat market was the most capitalist of the markets, which means that you could buy anything as long as you had the cash. Nothing there was forbidden by law, justice, or morality. That wouldn't fit with capitalist principles.” (The Meat Market)
  • At some point, you have to stop poking your stick around in the dirt and choose a spot to dig a well.” (Mito) This is advice that Reseng gives to Jeongan, a handsome friend with many girlfriends, who responds: “Who cares where you poke as long as it's wet.
  • Basking in the warm afternoon sun, your eyelids the only part of you still moving, like some kind of aging, ailing elephant? Or moving into a nursing home, where the only thing to occupy your time is tedious chit-chat with old people you have absolutely nothing in common with.” (Mito)
  • Life is not a set of sheets. You cannot scrub away your past, your memories, your mistakes, or your regrets. And so you die with them.” (Mito)
  • A virus company facing bankruptcy will ultimately survive not by making the world's greatest vaccine but, rather, the world's worst virus ... there was no better business model than owning both the virus and the vaccine.” (Mito)
  • I can't help picturing God's intestines. The intestines of a God that human beings have never seen and can't imagine. The dirty, smelly, and disgusting things hidden inside the holy, sacred, and divine. Shame hiding behind grace. Ugliness hidden behind beauty.” (Mito)
  • The only thing your stupid Y chromosome is good for is getting hard-ons and flying off the handle.” (Mito)
  • Two centimetres of snow is all it takes to make the dirt and filth underneath beautiful.” (The Door to the Left)
  • If knocking back a can of beer after a hard day's work makes you feel refreshed, rewarded, and relaxed, then a can of beer in the morning is about feeling melancholic, fuzzy-headed, improper, and refusing to act like a responsible adult just because the sun's come up.” (Beer week)

November 2019; 292 pages

This book was one of the 'Books and Beer' subscription which my wonderful wife bought me for Christmas. Other titles include:
  • Ask a Policeman by the Detection Club
  • Most Wanted by Robert Craik: a fast-paced thriller set in California
  • The Devil's Dice by Roz Watkins: a whodunnit set in the English Peak District
  • Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth: a stunning tale of crime and revenge, of temptation and sin, of evil and redemption set in 1880s Queensland and as gritty as only the Australian Outback can get.
  • Snap by Belinda Bauer: a brilliant story about a young lad who, having become a burglar in order to survive, discovers his mother's killer.
  • Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic: a murder mystery set in Australia in which the PI is deaf
  • The Mongolian Conspiracy by Rafael Bernal: classic Chandleresque Mexican noir
  • The Closer I Get, a thriller in which an author is stalked by an obsessive fan.
  • Homegrown Hero by Khurrum Rahman, an up-to-date thriller about fundamentalist terrorism set in Hounslow, West London

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