In Un-Su Kim’s debut novel, The Plotters, he envisions a Korea run behind-the-scenes by guilds of assassins creating a political climate that would make Jason Bourne’s head spin.
The book opens as Reseng, a young assassin stakes out his latest target, sizing the seemingly harmless old man up, taking stock of how he lives. When the old man invites Reseng to sit with him in his home and eat his food, the younger man agrees.
He stays the night, enjoying the man’s hospitality, and in the morning treks back to his vantage point, waiting for just the right moment before finally killing the old man at his leisure.
Reseng is very good at his job, but not always at following his instructions to the letter. He was instructed to bring back the body intact, but instead, he takes him to Bear, a man who runs a pet cremation services and also gets rid of human bodies for various assassins for a little extra income.
Well…he has daughters to put through college, after all.
This is not the first time Reseng has failed to follow his instructions to the letter, but little does he know the events he will set in motion with this particular failure.
In the highest echelon of the guilds, live the plotters. They meticulously plan each step of an assassination. They decide where, how, and what is to be done with the body afterward.
No one knows who they are. No one even knows how many of them there are, and some believe they are only legends. One thing is certain, however: They do not like to be disobeyed.
Un-su Kim’s tension-filled, fast-paced prose, translated into English by Sora-Kim Russell, quickly draws the reader into the world he has created. It’s as though he takes us by the hand and leads us, running, from start to finish.
Complex plotlines merge in unexpected places; characters introduced halfway through the narrative become some of the most important. The central character’s backstory is kept fresh by revealing just the right information at the right time.
Kim makes each step seem like a living, breathing moment that the reader is experiencing through his anti-hero’s eyes. You can feel the explosion of bullets around you, hear the sound of steel blades leaving their sheaths, and smell the smoke of Bear’s crematorium.
In fact, as I read I found myself aching for Reseng’s loneliness one minute and chastising his rash decisions the next as though he were sitting next to me relating the story in his own words.
It is the mark of great storytelling, and Mr. Kim has all the marks of a master storyteller.
The Plotters is available in the U.S. and Canada on January 29, 2019. Pick up a copy, immerse yourself in Un-su Kim’s world, but keep a handkerchief handy to wipe the blood-splatter from your face.