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The important thing is not who pulls the trigger but who’s behind the person who pulls the trigger—the plotters, the masterminds working in the shadows. Raised by Old Raccoon in The Library of Dogs, Reseng has always been surrounded by plots to kill—and by books that no one ever reads. In Seoul’s corrupt underworld, he was destined to be an assassin. Until he breaks the rul The important thing is not who pulls the trigger but who’s behind the person who pulls the trigger—the plotters, the masterminds working in the shadows. Raised by Old Raccoon in The Library of Dogs, Reseng has always been surrounded by plots to kill—and by books that no one ever reads. In Seoul’s corrupt underworld, he was destined to be an assassin. Until he breaks the rules. That’s when he meets a trio of young women—a convenience store worker, her wheelchair-bound sister, and a cross-eyed obsessive knitter—with an extraordinary plot of their own. Will the women save the day? Or will Reseng be next on the kill list? Who will look after his cats, Reading Lamp and Book Stand? Who planted the bomb in his toilet? How much beer can he drink before he forgets it all? The Plotters is a cracking noir thriller combined with the soul, wit and lyricism of a highly original literary voice. Un-su Kim is the rising star of Korean literature. With shades of Murakami, The Plotters is a complex, fascinating moral tale about the changing of the guard in a corrupt underworld—a page-turner filled with black humour and compassion for a fallen world.


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The important thing is not who pulls the trigger but who’s behind the person who pulls the trigger—the plotters, the masterminds working in the shadows. Raised by Old Raccoon in The Library of Dogs, Reseng has always been surrounded by plots to kill—and by books that no one ever reads. In Seoul’s corrupt underworld, he was destined to be an assassin. Until he breaks the rul The important thing is not who pulls the trigger but who’s behind the person who pulls the trigger—the plotters, the masterminds working in the shadows. Raised by Old Raccoon in The Library of Dogs, Reseng has always been surrounded by plots to kill—and by books that no one ever reads. In Seoul’s corrupt underworld, he was destined to be an assassin. Until he breaks the rules. That’s when he meets a trio of young women—a convenience store worker, her wheelchair-bound sister, and a cross-eyed obsessive knitter—with an extraordinary plot of their own. Will the women save the day? Or will Reseng be next on the kill list? Who will look after his cats, Reading Lamp and Book Stand? Who planted the bomb in his toilet? How much beer can he drink before he forgets it all? The Plotters is a cracking noir thriller combined with the soul, wit and lyricism of a highly original literary voice. Un-su Kim is the rising star of Korean literature. With shades of Murakami, The Plotters is a complex, fascinating moral tale about the changing of the guard in a corrupt underworld—a page-turner filled with black humour and compassion for a fallen world.

30 review for The Plotters

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paromjit

    This is a beautifully translated addition to the emergent genre of Korean Noir, it is offbeat, full of wit, irony and black humour, gritty and brutal but never less than engaging and gripping, set in Seoul. In this story of a quagmire of plotters, we have our anti-hero an assassin, Reseng, inescapably destined to become an exceptional hitman after being raised by Old Raccoon. You cannot help but be drawn into his life and character despite the brutality of his occupation. Contract killings are m This is a beautifully translated addition to the emergent genre of Korean Noir, it is offbeat, full of wit, irony and black humour, gritty and brutal but never less than engaging and gripping, set in Seoul. In this story of a quagmire of plotters, we have our anti-hero an assassin, Reseng, inescapably destined to become an exceptional hitman after being raised by Old Raccoon. You cannot help but be drawn into his life and character despite the brutality of his occupation. Contract killings are managed, planned and plotted at The Library of Dogs, in the business of assassinations. It is utilised by the criminal community and has close political connections with a corrupt government that cannot quite deal with being truly democratic and has found alternative ways of dealing with 'problems' through the route of outsourcing. The police seek the person who pulled the trigger rather than investigating below the surface, content with the obvious. Reseng, a lover of literature, lives with his cats, dealing with his violent occupation by finding solace in drinking beer. Then he goes off script on a killing assignment, veering off the straight and narrow path of following orders and his life begins to move into unexpected directions with the strange and bizarre happenings, such as explosives in his toilet, labyrinthian plots galore and rivalries. There is a pet cemetery owner, Bear, who Reseng utilises, a 'barber', Hanja, who is more than what he seems and what exactly happens to old assassins? This is a richly detailed intelligent satire with quirky beats, and full of atmosphere. The characterisation is simply fabulous, none more so than our central protagonist and the shadowy underworld is portrayed with panache. I look forward to reading more from this author! I recommend this to those looking for something different in the crime fiction genre. Many thanks to HarperCollins 4th Estate for an ARC.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    The Plotters is the first book I read in 2019 and one of my top ten books of the year. It takes place in an alternative contemporary Seoul – one in which an elite cabal of politicians and corporate executives arrange for and order hits. Their selected targets might be their enemies or the simply and suddenly inconvenient. Our main character, 32-year old Reseng, is a well-read hit man. He never had much of a chance for another career path. He was discarded in a garbage can outside of a convent, r The Plotters is the first book I read in 2019 and one of my top ten books of the year. It takes place in an alternative contemporary Seoul – one in which an elite cabal of politicians and corporate executives arrange for and order hits. Their selected targets might be their enemies or the simply and suddenly inconvenient. Our main character, 32-year old Reseng, is a well-read hit man. He never had much of a chance for another career path. He was discarded in a garbage can outside of a convent, raised by the nuns until he was 4, then adopted by his mentor and fellow assassin, Old Raccoon, and raised in an immense library that doubles as a front for the real business of assassinations for cash. “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.” One day, Reseng is going about his business, with only the police to fear. The next, he realizes that the various assassins in and around Seoul have been engaged to start picking one another off and, as The Plotters progresses, Reseng becomes an active target and we’re in a race to the finish. Along the way, he interacts with one vivid character after another – the most memorable of which is the Barber. The challenge in recommending The Plotters is that it doesn’t fit neatly into any sort of category. There’s no group of readers one can identify and say with any confidence, “you’ll love this.” It’s absent inspiration or triumph of the human spirit. It isn’t genre fiction; however, fans of gritty, crime novels like Fuminori Nakamura’s The Thief are likely to enjoy it. It’s literary fiction, but the LitFic reader seeking experimental fiction or magical realism or a political statement won’t find it here. If you’re willing to dwell in a nihilistic world for the hours it takes to read The Plotters and can enjoy novels that are driven by more than finding out what happens next – notwithstanding the ominous sense of suspense – you may love it as much as I did. The Plotters is highly visual. And each reader must understand and accept – as Reseng does – that there’s no escape for him, no rescue, no happy ending available, and yet be determined to take the ride with him, visually through this alternative South Korea, viscerally, from beginning to end – whether in a barber shop, or on a street, or endeavoring to sleep. Knowing that his destiny is that everyone really is out to get him. I couldn’t recommend it more…. if you’re that reader. Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher, Doubleday, for offering an ecopy.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Smith

    Reseng was delivered early into the killing game. Having been abandoned as a baby he was adopted from an orphanage by Old Raccoon, a contractor for those who are prepared to pay for a life to be taken. Old Raccoon runs his business out of a library, known locally as the Doghouse, in Seoul and in time Reseng grows naturally into his role as a hired assassin. The people who seek out his services are known as Plotters and are perhaps mainly shady government types – though in truth Reseng really doe Reseng was delivered early into the killing game. Having been abandoned as a baby he was adopted from an orphanage by Old Raccoon, a contractor for those who are prepared to pay for a life to be taken. Old Raccoon runs his business out of a library, known locally as the Doghouse, in Seoul and in time Reseng grows naturally into his role as a hired assassin. The people who seek out his services are known as Plotters and are perhaps mainly shady government types – though in truth Reseng really doesn’t know who they are or why they want their targets eliminated. When we first meet Reseng, through whose eyes we’ll watch events unfold, he’s looking at an old General through his rifle scope. Should he shoot him now or wait a while? Decisions, decisions. Well, as things turn out he ends up sharing a meal and quite a lot of whiskey with the old man. But that doesn’t stop him from pulling the trigger a little while later. This provides an early insight into Reseng’s mindset: he’s inquisitive and thoughtful but ultimately cold, very cold. Another thing we learn is that the job of an assassin has some of the same risks as any other form of employment including competition from other suppliers and, ultimately, unemployment. Who knew! Yes, another contractor is trying to step on Old Raccoons toes by stealing his business. A turf war is about to kick-off; this isn’t going to end well. As for Reseng, well he’s given an out by Old Raccoon, he can escape and start a new life. But is that what he really wants? I found one of the most interesting characters here to be Bear, who runs the local pet crematorium and as a sideline disposes of bodies for the assassins. But then there’s an ex-soldier who cuts hair for a living and kills for money on the side and a fair number of other quirky people knocking around. It’s a strange world we’re delivered into, populated by somewhat weird people living unconventional lives. This is the second Korean crime fiction novel I’ve read recently, following the excellent The Good Son. Both seem to offer up a very different world to that I’m used to – a culture that’s hard to pin down, seemingly futuristic but also locked into the past. It’s exciting and slightly disturbing. I’d certainly recommend lovers of this genre to try out one of these books (or both). I know I’ll be going back for more. My sincere thanks to HarperCollins UK and NetGalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ova - Excuse My Reading

    I won't lie, I found this book a bit baffling in the start but then when the events picked up, and I got what was going on it became so anti-climatic and interesting. Would it be awkward if I define it as "Tarantino meets David Lynch"? The whole story, characters, events are bizarre and different, but not in a bad way. There is violence, sadness, a well-painted atmosphere, solid characters. If you're into cat/mouse game type of crime novels and fancy a quirk don't give this a miss. Second Korean I won't lie, I found this book a bit baffling in the start but then when the events picked up, and I got what was going on it became so anti-climatic and interesting. Would it be awkward if I define it as "Tarantino meets David Lynch"? The whole story, characters, events are bizarre and different, but not in a bad way. There is violence, sadness, a well-painted atmosphere, solid characters. If you're into cat/mouse game type of crime novels and fancy a quirk don't give this a miss. Second Korean crime fiction I have read this year and would love to read a third one.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Meike

    I love how Un-su Kim takes the tropes of the hardboiled crime novel, plays around with them, has some professional killers question them within the text and tops it all of with a critique of South Korean society - it's clever, inventive and entertaining. Our protagonist Reseng has been left in a garbage bin as a baby and then brought up by a librarian who runs a professional assassination business (Ryū Murakami will probably love this novel). We meet 32-year-old Reseng, now a successful assassin I love how Un-su Kim takes the tropes of the hardboiled crime novel, plays around with them, has some professional killers question them within the text and tops it all of with a critique of South Korean society - it's clever, inventive and entertaining. Our protagonist Reseng has been left in a garbage bin as a baby and then brought up by a librarian who runs a professional assassination business (Ryū Murakami will probably love this novel). We meet 32-year-old Reseng, now a successful assassin himself, at the crossroads of his life: Not only does his job take a toll on him, the political and business landscapes have shifted and his former ally has become his biggest - and very deadly - competition. Un-su Kim talks about the assassination business as just another highly specialized industry in capitalist society, and Reseng has no illusions: He grew up in this trade, he knows he is disposable, a puppet instrumentalized to eliminate targets, paid and sent out by "plotters" who come up with schemes in order to control politics and business - but does that mean he isn't morally responsible? Does his backstory explain or even excuse his actions or the actions of others? These questions are at the core of the novel: This assassin wants to know in how far he is obliged to resist the dynamics he is caught up in, even if it will cost him his life. Obviously, this is a deeply political question, and I love how this author wraps it up in a thriller: "This world isn't a mess because people are evil. It's because everyone has their own stories and excuses for doing bad things." Those who execute the violent deeds are actually "cowardly, weakest-of-the-weak people who say ´We had no choice because that's how the world is and because life is hard and because we have no power.`" And even the plotters themselves are not people, but commodities in a self-sustaining system of supply and demand: "You know what's there if you keep going all the way up to the top? Nothing. Just an empty chair." Yes, you can read this for the story and the characters and it will be rewarding, but the philosophical musings of the assassins are the real highlights of the text: As in every good crime novel, the criminals mirror society and ask some uncomfortable questions. A really absorbing, smart read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David Yoon

    Would make one hell of a TV script with Reseng, our protagonist torn between the old world of trained career assassins, the back-alley, anything for a buck world of the Meat Market and the slick, MBA having, Stanford educated Hanja and his corporate supermarket of death. The host of eclectic characters from the soft-hearted but bear-sized owner of the pet crematorium, the cross-eyed, knitting librarian, the non-stop talking convenience store owner and her wheelchair bound sister. The action is d Would make one hell of a TV script with Reseng, our protagonist torn between the old world of trained career assassins, the back-alley, anything for a buck world of the Meat Market and the slick, MBA having, Stanford educated Hanja and his corporate supermarket of death. The host of eclectic characters from the soft-hearted but bear-sized owner of the pet crematorium, the cross-eyed, knitting librarian, the non-stop talking convenience store owner and her wheelchair bound sister. The action is done well and the story moves but I guess I like a bit more flourish in my writing. The translation is serviceable but I have a Western appetite for wordy flourishes on the page and the need for some authorial pyrotechnics. It's a question of activist versus originalist translations explored a bit more here: https://youtu.be/rKmkhWh_vzY

  7. 4 out of 5

    Erica

    I don't have any strong feelings regarding this book. My thoughts were not provoked, my emotions were not engaged, I was not sad that the story ended. But that doesn't mean it was a bad read, it wasn't. It's the story of Reseng, an assassin, the lowest position on the ladder but he's at the top of his game, one of the best. He works out of Old Raccoon's library where he was raised after being found by nuns in a dumpster 30+ years ago. Old Raccoon works with Plotters who have been hired to kill pe I don't have any strong feelings regarding this book. My thoughts were not provoked, my emotions were not engaged, I was not sad that the story ended. But that doesn't mean it was a bad read, it wasn't. It's the story of Reseng, an assassin, the lowest position on the ladder but he's at the top of his game, one of the best. He works out of Old Raccoon's library where he was raised after being found by nuns in a dumpster 30+ years ago. Old Raccoon works with Plotters who have been hired to kill people but Plotters don't do the actual job, they just come up with a detailed plan, give it to contractors like Old Raccoon and the contractors give the murder and body disposal instructions to assassins. The thing is, now that there's a democracy in South Korea and everything is working better than it had back in the more corrupt days, the need for professional assassins is waning. Sure, there are still politicians who need to get rid of mistresses and petty feuds between government officials but, for the most part, business is slow. The few remaining contractors want Old Raccoon's client list; he's the only one who still has a solid roster of old-school officials who regularly need hit men. They can't kill him for it because they'll never get it that way, but there are ways to persuade him to leave the business which means there are crosshairs on Reseng. I kept forgetting this takes place in Korea, probably because the narrator has a British accent. Also, there weren't a lot of touchpoints; except for some of the food and drinks, the mention of a highway, and the city of Seoul, there wasn't much to remind me that we weren't in any other city popular in stories. Even Reseng's name threw me off because there is no "R" in the Korean language. I enjoyed listening to this but I think I've become too used to American thrillers in which everything is high stakes, fast-paced over-the-top action. This was a slow story, sometimes sweet, in which no one is really bad, everyone is just doing what they need to do to get by. It's definitely not a thriller, it's slower-paced, heavier, and redolent of American maverick stories from the '50's. Give it a shot (SHOT! Because assassins! They shoot!) and see what you think.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Marianne

    The Plotters is the first novel by prize-winning Korean author, Un-su Kim, in English. Reseng has been an assassin for fifteen years. His facilitator is Old Raccoon, who operates out of the library he calls The Doghouse. His instructions come from the Plotters who take orders from the Contractor. An assignment will often see Reseng presenting a body to his friend, Bear who runs a pet crematorium but will, for a fee, cremate a human body with due reverence and ceremony. Reseng is careful to mainta The Plotters is the first novel by prize-winning Korean author, Un-su Kim, in English. Reseng has been an assassin for fifteen years. His facilitator is Old Raccoon, who operates out of the library he calls The Doghouse. His instructions come from the Plotters who take orders from the Contractor. An assignment will often see Reseng presenting a body to his friend, Bear who runs a pet crematorium but will, for a fee, cremate a human body with due reverence and ceremony. Reseng is careful to maintain emotional distance from his victims, because it is important to follow the plotter’s instructions to the letter, if the assassin does not want to end up on the list himself. This has happened to two of his associates. But when Jeongan, his tracker and good friend, falls victim, it becomes personal for Reseng. And, as unlikely as it seems, the plotter is apparently a pretty young convenience store cashier. This is a story with that particular Asian quality to it: the way the characters speak, their logic, their reactions, all are distinctly “not Western”. The plot, too, is patently Asian, with a twist or two, and an exciting, although very dark, climax. There’s plenty of black humour in this rather unusual tale, along with some delightful ironies. Characters engage in matter-of-fact discussion of assassination, of death, of body disposal, of corruption, of honour, and many more aspects of life. A distinctive work of Korean crime fiction that is flawlessly translated into English by Sora Kim-Russell. This unbiased review is from a copy provided by Text Publishing.

  9. 5 out of 5

    The Captain

    Ahoy there me mateys! This tale be described by Goodreads as “a fantastical crime novel set in an alternate Seoul where assassination guilds compete for market dominance. Perfect for fans of Han Kang.” I love Han Kang. I love assassins. I love translated works. I love the cover. I loved Fiction Fan’s awesome review which led me to this fun read. She said: I’m not sure if I’ve made this sound as appealing as it deserves. I found it compulsively readable and, despite the apparent bleakness of the s Ahoy there me mateys! This tale be described by Goodreads as “a fantastical crime novel set in an alternate Seoul where assassination guilds compete for market dominance. Perfect for fans of Han Kang.” I love Han Kang. I love assassins. I love translated works. I love the cover. I loved Fiction Fan’s awesome review which led me to this fun read. She said: I’m not sure if I’ve made this sound as appealing as it deserves. I found it compulsively readable and, despite the apparent bleakness of the subject matter, full of humour and emotional warmth. I highly recommend it as something different from the usual run of things – well written, well plotted and ultimately strangely satisfying. There is no doubt that this book is odd and quirky. I highly enjoyed it. This is the story of an assassin named Reseng who is part of a specialized group of assassins whose existence is a thinly veiled secret and whose trade was governed by an elaborate system of rules under the old dictatorship. But the new democracy is here and with it a change of the societal norms. The assassin code of ethics is over and someone is out to kill the competition. Reseng is skilled as an assassin but is rather naive when it comes to the rest of Seoul and how normal people work. That’s what happens when ye be raised from childhood to kill. So when he finds himself a target, he chooses to figure out why and how he ended up becoming the contract. It is this deeper look into Reseng’s life and the world of assassins that became fascinating. The fact that a very unusual library is used as front for the business was a big bonus. It was also interesting that Reseng is a sympathetic character despite his stance on killing. I can’t really explain more than that about the plot. For all the complexities of the world-building and assassin lifestyles, this was a well-crafted book that was not difficult to read. There were many wonderful and memorable characters. I absolutely loved the resolution and Reseng’s journey. I think that both the author and the translator, Sora Kim-Russell, deserve a lot of praise for their work. If the idea of this book intrigues, then I suggest ye give it a chance. Arrrr! Check out me other reviews at https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordp...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Liz Barnsley

    Considering this was a novel about the hierarchy of assassins, it had a beautifully rolling, gentle prose - even in it's more violent moments, plus it was hugely compelling and absorbing. The Plotters sit at the top of the hired killer food chain, hidden from view but pulling all the strings. We rock along with one "lowly" assassin as he changes the plans and comes under fire. This is only my second Korean thriller and I'm hoping more come my way soon- different and quirky, both in the realistic Considering this was a novel about the hierarchy of assassins, it had a beautifully rolling, gentle prose - even in it's more violent moments, plus it was hugely compelling and absorbing. The Plotters sit at the top of the hired killer food chain, hidden from view but pulling all the strings. We rock along with one "lowly" assassin as he changes the plans and comes under fire. This is only my second Korean thriller and I'm hoping more come my way soon- different and quirky, both in the realistic setting and well drawn protagonists, The Plotters has a very different, almost poetic feel about it that is utterly riveting. Kudos to the translator, Sora Kim-Russell for making it read so well and to the author Un-su Kim for writing such a considered, cleverly woven and totally addictive narrative with an ending that made me draw a sharp breath at the emotion of it. Genuinely great to read and with an atmospheric noir sense that digs deep, this is one for any crime fan who is after something new and differently intriguing. Recommended.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Paul Fulcher

    "‘Reading books will doom you to a life of fear and shame. Now, do you still feel like reading?’" The Guardian newspaper recently heralded Korean thriller writers as starting a new wave of translated popular fiction to succeed Scandinavian noir -https://www.theguardian.com/books/201... - and the book on which they centered their article was this: 설계자들 by 김언수 (Kim Un-su). A more literal translation of the original title would be designers or architects, but the publisher and translator have gone w "‘Reading books will doom you to a life of fear and shame. Now, do you still feel like reading?’" The Guardian newspaper recently heralded Korean thriller writers as starting a new wave of translated popular fiction to succeed Scandinavian noir -https://www.theguardian.com/books/201... - and the book on which they centered their article was this: 설계자들 by 김언수 (Kim Un-su). A more literal translation of the original title would be designers or architects, but the publisher and translator have gone with The Plotters. The translation is from Sora Kim-Russell - the 7th author I have read through her translations, the others being Gong Jiyoung, Pyun Hye-Young, Hwang Sok-yong, Bae Suah, Park Hyoung-su and Shin Kyung-sook, and she is one of my favourite Korean-English translators alongside Deborah Smith and Jung Yewon. Her translations tend to be towards the reads-naturally-in-English end of the spectrum, certainly as compared to Jung's, which makes this a highly accessible read, albeit one with an appropriate amount of local colour: e.g. as soon as page 2 we get a description of a man with 'a permanent grin, like a carved wooden hahoe mask' (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hahoetal). As with two other books in this genre - The Hole by Pyun Hye-Young (my review https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) and The Good Son by Jeong You-jeong (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) this isn't a type of book I would have naturally read in English: my interest is more in Korean literary fiction and in in pure literary terms, this is not, and does not purport to be, in the same class as Bae Suah, Han Kang or Hwang Sok-yong say. Nevertheless it is a well-written book, humourous and quirky, with some fascinating characters, and one which rises above the constraints of genre by not following too linear or (except perhaps in the closing pages) predictable a path. The subject of the novel, Reseng, is an assassin-for-hire, adopted as a young child by Old Raccoon who historically has run Korea's contract assassination business from The Old Library, one that developed in Korea after the end of military rule: "What sped up the assassination industry was the new regime of democratically-elected civilian administrations that sought the trappings of morality. Maybe they thought that by stamping their foreheads with the words It’s okay, we’re not the military, they could fool the people. But power is all the same deep down, no matter what it looks like. As Deng Xiaoping once said, ‘It doesn’t matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice.’The problem was that the newly democratic government couldn’t use that basement on Namsan to beat the crap out of the pains in the arse. And so, in order to avoid the eyes of the people and the press, to avoid generating evidence of their own complex chain of command and execution, and to avoid any future responsibility, they started doing business on the sly with contractors. And thus began the age of outsourcing. It was cheaper and simpler than taking care of it themselves, but best of all, there was less clean-up. On the rare occasion that the shit did hit the fan, the government was safe and clear of it. While contractors were being hauled off to jail, all they had to do was look shocked and appalled in front of the news cameras and say things like, ‘What a terrible and unfortunate tragedy!’" Although with changing times, particularly the growing demand from the private and corporate sector, his business, and his life, are under threat from competitors. In the novel's world, the assassination requests come into the contractors via the plotters of the book's (English) title, who themselves take orders from end clients. Reseng very much subscribes to Lee Harvey Oswald's 'patsy' (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbR6v...) theory of assassination: "Whenever an assassination came to light, the first person the police looked for was the shooter. In the end, all they wanted to know was: ‘Who pulled the trigger?’ When they did find whoever pulled the trigger, they fooled themselves into thinking everything had been solved. ... ‘Plotters are just pawns like us,’ Reseng said. ‘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 know what’s there if you keep going all the way to the top? Nothing. Just an empty chair.’" But as the novel begins, Reseng is starting not to follow the rules. Sent to kill a former North Korean general, and someone who was himself a senior plotter in the South, he ends up having dinner with him, before completing his task. And when he finds a small bomb planted in his toilet: "‘This would’ve blown your arse off.’ ‘That tiny thing?’ ‘The pressure is higher inside a toilet bowl. It’s like squeezing a firecracker in your hand when it goes off. Basically, when you sit down to take a shit, your arse forms a seal over the hole, creating the perfect conditions for this bomb to do maximum damage.’ ‘Are you saying it could have killed me?’ ‘Ever seen anyone survive without an arse?’" he gets caught up in a world of memorably eccentric characters and complicated plots. The chief suspect for the toilet bomb for example "was working at a convenience store. After greeting customers with an overly loud ‘Welcome!’ she hit them with a bubbly ‘Help you find something?’ or butted in with a nosy ‘Ooh, I buy these biscuits too!’ Most customers ignored her. But she laughed anyway, indifferent, and kept tossing jokes at them while clacking away at the register, picking up items from the counter with an exaggerated sweep of her arm. When there were no customers, she chattered nonstop on the shop telephone, or cleaned the shelves and reorganised the already perfectly arranged items. Chatting or cleaning , cleaning or chatting. She looked like a child with an attention-deficit disorder." And at one point he finds himself wondering what he has got involved in: "Plotter, cross-eyed librarian, knitting-shop owner— what on earth were these three mismatched women doing together? And in this ridiculous shop, of all places, watched over by Papa Smurf and Winnie-the-Pooh and all the Teletubbies?" Kim is very effective at creating these memorable characters, although one criticism would be that he doesn't always follow through or suggest any deeper significance. For example, Old Raccoon runs his business out of a library: "he found it hard to believe that this quiet place had headquartered a den of assassins for the last ninety years. He marvelled at the thought that all those deaths, all those assassinations and unexplained disappearances and faked accidents and imprisonments and kidnappings, had been decided and plotted right here in this building. Who’d chosen this place from which to orchestrate such abominable acts? It was madness. It would have made more sense to set up camp in the office of the National Dry Cleaners Union, or the office of the Organising Committee to Revitalise Poultry Farming." And Old Raccoon has a one-book-in, one-book-out policy to stocking his shelves that very much reflects my own: "Old Raccoon used to order new books regularly, but would throw out the same number just as regularly ... When their time came, Old Raccoon placed a black strip around the discards. It was his own special form of sentencing, a funeral procedure for books that had reached the end of their life. The same way ageing assassins were added to a list and eliminated by cleaners when their time came. Of course, a book’s life span was determined by Old Raccoon alone, and neither Reseng nor the librarians could understand why certain books had to be tossed. The books with black bands were gathered by the librarian and stacked in the courtyard to be burned on Sunday afternoons, the librarian’s day off. Old Raccoon could have sold them to a secondhand bookshop or even to a recycler, but he insisted on burning them." Old Raccoon himself only read two of the books, alternating between an English and German encyclopedia, but, to his horror (as per the opening quote) Reseng teaches himself as a child to read, and becomes an avid bibliophile: "The cabinet under the sink was stacked with instant noodle cups, and next to his pillow and on the table were the books that he’d either brought with him from Seoul or bought at the local bookshop : Albert Camus’ Summer and The Plague, Italo Calvino’s The Baron in the Trees, Martin Monestier’s Suicides, Andrew Solomon’s The Noonday Demon." which is all wonderful colour - but doesn't then seem of any great significance in the later plot or character development. Nevertheless, an atmospheric and enjoyable read, rather too quirky to count as noir. As for a rating - a tricky one. For personal appreciation, given my literary tastes, 3 stars but as a recommendation for other, particularly those seeking an alternative to Stieg Larrson clones, a solid 4. Thanks to the publisher's via Netgalley for the ARC.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Irene

    I needed something to break me out of my reading rut and this certainly was outside my normal reading. This is part thriller, part comedy, part psychological study. Set in an alternative South Korea where gangs of assassins governed by mysterious leaders control society, this had a dark humor in its preposterous characters and it was stunningly insightful in its exploration of human motivations. The writing was crisp, a delight to read. I am not sure I would want to have a steady literary diet o I needed something to break me out of my reading rut and this certainly was outside my normal reading. This is part thriller, part comedy, part psychological study. Set in an alternative South Korea where gangs of assassins governed by mysterious leaders control society, this had a dark humor in its preposterous characters and it was stunningly insightful in its exploration of human motivations. The writing was crisp, a delight to read. I am not sure I would want to have a steady literary diet of this type of book, but I am very glad I read this one.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    Plotters are just pawns like us. A request comes in, and they draw up the plans. There's always someone above them who tells them what to do. And above that person is another plotter telling them what to do. You know what's there if you keep going all the way to the top? Nothing. Just an empty chair. Un-Su Kim's The Plotters is said to be set in “an alternate Seoul”; a seat of power in which those who pull the strings have access to a thriving assassination industry to enforce their whims and Plotters are just pawns like us. A request comes in, and they draw up the plans. There's always someone above them who tells them what to do. And above that person is another plotter telling them what to do. You know what's there if you keep going all the way to the top? Nothing. Just an empty chair. Un-Su Kim's The Plotters is said to be set in “an alternate Seoul”; a seat of power in which those who pull the strings have access to a thriving assassination industry to enforce their whims and clean up their messes. Told from the perspective of one such assassin – Reseng, who was rescued from a garbage can as a baby and raised to his craft – the whole vibe is cynical and nihilistic: if you can unsentimentally kill someone with whom you've just shared a meal, and if you expect to be knifed yourself at every turn, there isn't much meaning or value to life. One reaction to this worldview is humour, and Reseng does have some snarky and deadpan lines, but this book is more crime noir than dark comedy or political commentary. Taken for what it is, The Plotters was an entertaining page-turner. What sped up the assassination industry was the new regime of democratically elected civilian administrations that sought the trappings of morality. Maybe they thought that by stamping their foreheads with the words It's okay, we're not the military, they could fool the people. But power is all the same deep down, no matter what it looks like. Although written by a Korean author and set firmly in his country, The Plotters could have really been set in any capital city: there's nothing particularly Korean about the powers-that-be (beyond the above explanatory quote); nothing particularly Korean about the behaviour of the characters. As soon as the government started outsourcing its murders, private businesses also began using the services of freelance assassins, and an entire industry arose: with plotters, contractors, trackers, assassins, and cleaners working together and in rivalries; with only the shadowy plotters at the top having a complete picture of the goals and means. As for Reseng – as a respected but mid-level assassin – he drinks beer for breakfast, reads Camus and Calvino, plays with his cats, and waits for assignments. Despite proving himself to be a cold-blooded killer, when some of his friends begin to disappear – and Old Raccoon, the man who adopted him, seems to be under threat – Reseng feels a tug at his loyalty and determines to uncover the plotters and their latest plot. To the plotters, mercenaries and assassins were like disposable batteries. After all, what use would they have for old assassins? An old assassin was like an annoying blister bursting with incriminating information and evidence. The more you thought about it, the more sense it made. Why would anyone hold on to a used-up battery? Ultimately, The Plotters has a nicely unsettling nihilistic vibe, the storyline was compelling, and I was never bored. On the other hand, there's no deeper meaning here and I didn't find it to be revelatory of some definitively Korean experience (unlike the works of Han Kang). Still, a good read; four stars is a rounding up.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Donna Davis

    The author of this surreal, expertly crafted tale has been called “the Korean Henning Mankell,” but I say he is the Korean Kurt Vonnegut. Enter a world in which the most ignorant and uncurious survive, one in which “Reading books will doom you to a life of fear and shame.” My thanks go to Doubleday and Net Galley for the advance review copy, which I received free in exchange for this honest review. This novel will be available in the U.S. February 12, 2019. Our protagonist is Reseng. Orphaned at The author of this surreal, expertly crafted tale has been called “the Korean Henning Mankell,” but I say he is the Korean Kurt Vonnegut. Enter a world in which the most ignorant and uncurious survive, one in which “Reading books will doom you to a life of fear and shame.” My thanks go to Doubleday and Net Galley for the advance review copy, which I received free in exchange for this honest review. This novel will be available in the U.S. February 12, 2019. Our protagonist is Reseng. Orphaned at a young age, he grew up in Old Raccoon’s library. He is an assassin. Killing others for hire has grown into a huge industry, and the story begins with Reseng watching an old man through a scope. He has a job to do. Readers are forewarned that this story is not for the squeamish, and I almost abandoned it, because although I like dark humor, this is triple-dark. I set it aside fairly early, unsure whether I was coming back or not, but despite its brutality, it drew me back, and I am glad I returned to it. Bear is Reseng’s friend, and he runs the pet crematorium. That’s what it’s called, because the murder industry is still officially illegal; it wouldn’t do to announce his business as the place to dispose of a freshly assassinated human victim. Not yet anyway; the way things are going, this may change. Reseng is there on business, though, because the old man he just killed has to be processed. And as he and Bear converse on the state of the profession—so many immigrants are coming to South Korea and taking these jobs; Chinese, North Koreans that sneak over, Vietnamese. They’ll work cheap, and it makes it harder for guys like Reseng to get what the jobs are worth. And then there’s outsourcing. Assassins are hired by plotters, but Reseng reflects that “Plotters are just pawns like us. A request comes in, and they draw up the plans. There’s someone above them that tells them what to do. And above that person is another plotter…You know what’s there if you keep going all the way to the top? Nothing. Just an empty chair.” Reseng’s greatest concern is Old Raccoon, Reseng’s aging mentor who is being edged out by unseen forces. Old Raccoon isn’t an assassin, but he has kept himself out of the crosshairs by permitting his library to be used as a meeting point between shady individuals looking to make deals. That’s worked for him pretty well, until recently. Old Raccoon is all the family Reseng has, and so out of concern, he begins asking questions. It’s a reckless thing to do, and he knows it. Before long, Reseng’s life turns into a hall of mirrors, and it’s hard to know who to believe, because he can’t trust anyone. Where does Hanja, who was also mentored by Old Raccoon, fit in? What about the cross-eyed librarian? Is she on the up and up, and if so, where did she go? Is The Barber involved here? His queries take him to visit Hanja, who is now wealthy and influential, a giant among giants in the industry, and his offices take up three whole floors in a high-rise building: “As if it wasn’t ironic enough that the country’s top assassination provider was brazenly running his business in a building owned by an international insurance company; the same assassination provider was also simultaneously managing a bodyguard firm and a security firm. But just as a vaccine company facing bankruptcy will ultimately survive not by making the world’s greatest vaccine but, rather, the world’s worst virus, so, too, did bodyguard and security firms need the world’s most evil terrorists to prosper, not the greatest security experts. That was capitalism. Hanja understood how the world could curl around and bite its own tail like the uroboros serpent…There was no better business model than owning both the virus and vaccine…A business like that would never go under.” The struggle unfolds in ways that are impossible to predict, and what kind of fool would even attempt to make sense of it? When challenged, Hanja tries to warn Reseng that when an anaconda tries to swallow an alligator, it instead dies of a ruptured stomach, but Reseng will not be stopped. His journey builds to a riotous crescendo, and there’s a point past which it’s impossible not to read till the thing is done. It’s a scathing tale of alienation told by a master storyteller, and the ending is brilliant as well. There’s nobody else writing anything like this today. Highly recommended.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    Strangely satisfying... In modern, democratic South Korea, governments can no longer get rid of political enemies as easily as they did under the military dictatorship, but fortunately there’s a whole hierarchy of assassins willing to do it for them, for a price. Not to be left out, the world of big business finds this a convenient way to rid itself of competitors too. So, up until recently, there’s been plenty of work for our lead assassin, Reseng, and his employer, Old Raccoon. But now there ar Strangely satisfying... In modern, democratic South Korea, governments can no longer get rid of political enemies as easily as they did under the military dictatorship, but fortunately there’s a whole hierarchy of assassins willing to do it for them, for a price. Not to be left out, the world of big business finds this a convenient way to rid itself of competitors too. So, up until recently, there’s been plenty of work for our lead assassin, Reseng, and his employer, Old Raccoon. But now there are new kids on the block, using modern business methods to attract all the customers. Things are about to go very wrong... I doubt there’s anybody in the world who knows less about South Korea than me, so I can only hope this book doesn’t give an entirely realistic picture of life there, especially given it’s the bit of Korea we’re all supposed to like! Part satire and part surreal, this is one of the oddest books I’ve read in a while, and one of the most violent, but the quality of the writing and storytelling kept me totally intrigued and absorbed. It reminded me a little of Haruki Murakami, in that the world seems almost real but a little off-kilter – not quite the world we live in but close. However, unlike Murakami, there’s no overt fantasy or supernatural element to it. It’s told in the third person (past tense), but exclusively from Reseng’s point of view, so everything we see is filtered through his clearly abnormal outlook. Reseng was taken in as a child by Old Raccoon to live in the library which provides cover for the real business of assassins for hire. With no formal education, he has picked up everything he knows from the books on the library shelves, so is full of little snippets of information but has no grounding in normal life. Brought up to be an assassin, he sometimes wishes he could do something else but when it comes to the bit, he acts without remorse, though occasionally with a passing pity for his victims. Oddly, he feels like a rather sympathetic character despite this, with just enough ambiguity about his morality to keep the reader more or less on his side. He seems to be a symptom of the problems in this society rather than the cause. Basically, this is a tale of turf wars among the assassins, and we are restricted to their small subset of society. When Reseng carries out a contract, he doesn’t know the reason the victim is to be killed or who wants the job done. The plotters are the middlemen – someone who wants a person killed hires a plotter, who plans the details and then in turn hires an assassin to carry it out. Assassins are expendable and have a short life-expectancy, and they all accept this. But when assassins begin to be killed by competitors, this seems to go against the code and things get personal. Plus assassins aren’t quite so easy to kill as ordinary victims. And then things get more complicated when Reseng becomes the target of a woman who seems to have an agenda of her own... The satire element seems to be saying that the major difference between the old dictatorship and the new democracy is merely the need to do the same old dirty deeds secretly rather than openly. It also pokes a little fun at modern business methods creeping into a profession that is as old as time. There’s a surprising amount of humour in it, and the violence, while frequent and extreme, is largely kept this side of graphic and has an almost cartoonish quality to it, or maybe a stylised feel like the violence in a Tarantino film. And Reseng’s naivety about the world beyond the business has an unexpectedly endearing quality – I found myself hoping for some kind of redemption for him. The translator, Sora Kim-Russell, deserves special mention – the translation is smooth and seamless, never jarring, and allows the excellence of the writing to come through. I could easily have forgotten it was a translation, which is the best praise any translator can earn. I’m not sure if I’ve made this sound as appealing as it deserves. I found it compulsively readable and, despite the apparent bleakness of the subject matter, full of humour and emotional warmth. I highly recommend it as something different from the usual run of things – well written, well plotted and ultimately strangely satisfying. 4½ stars for me, so rounded up. NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, 4th Estate. www.fictionfanblog.wordpress.com

  16. 4 out of 5

    peggy

    Let me start off by saying that I never read a book like this before. What happens when an assassin has outlived their usefulness? It's obvious you send more assassins to kill him. This book is clever, funny and packed with action. It is beautifully written and the translation is top notch. Once I started this book I was hooked, there is a lot of violence and be warned it is graphic. This is a book that I will read again and again and I do not do this very often. I will definitely be looking out Let me start off by saying that I never read a book like this before. What happens when an assassin has outlived their usefulness? It's obvious you send more assassins to kill him. This book is clever, funny and packed with action. It is beautifully written and the translation is top notch. Once I started this book I was hooked, there is a lot of violence and be warned it is graphic. This is a book that I will read again and again and I do not do this very often. I will definitely be looking out for more of this authors books. Think that I have found another guilty pleasure Korean Crime Fiction. I want more now !!!!!! Highly recommended. I would like to thank the author, HarperCollins UK and Netgalley for the advanced copy in return for giving an honest review.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Text Publishing

    ‘The Plotters is a constantly surprising book full [of] fascinating stories and unforgettable characters…A savage, beautifully observed, often poetic novel.’ AustCrime ‘Laugh-out-loud funny.’ Radio NZ ‘The Plotters is what would happen if you took the best South Korean crime cinema and distilled it into words. A smart but lightning fast thriller that keeps the pressure on to the very last page.’ Brian Evenson, author of Last Days and A Collapse of Horses ‘Imagine a mash-up of Tarantino and Camus se ‘The Plotters is a constantly surprising book full [of] fascinating stories and unforgettable characters…A savage, beautifully observed, often poetic novel.’ AustCrime ‘Laugh-out-loud funny.’ Radio NZ ‘The Plotters is what would happen if you took the best South Korean crime cinema and distilled it into words. A smart but lightning fast thriller that keeps the pressure on to the very last page.’ Brian Evenson, author of Last Days and A Collapse of Horses ‘Imagine a mash-up of Tarantino and Camus set in contemporary Seoul, and you have The Plotters. Filled with unexpected humor and exquisite fight scenes.’ Louisa Luna, author of Two Girls Down ‘It is a harder-than-hard-boiled kooky blast of a book. It is wildly funny and surreal.’ NZ Listener ‘A novel to keep readers on their toes.’ Booklover Book Reviews ‘More than a crime novel, more than violence and mystery, The Plotters promises both temptation and beauty.’ Eka Kurniawan 'Like a veteran killer, he’s terse. Quickly, coolly, and without hesitation, he commands sentences and stories that stab the reader between the ribs. We’ve been waiting for this storyteller and his story.' Park Min-gyu ‘Awe is my reaction to The Plotters. The novel thrills me like a wolf feels when it has smelled blood.' Kwon Yeo-seon 'Now this is a story with power and style. The one-two punches of humor are a nice bonus…You’ll be laughing out loud every five minutes…you’ll find yourself contemplating the meaning of life, death, and desire for a long, long time. Make sure you leave your evening free, because you won’t be able to put this book down once you start.’ You-jeong Jeong, author of the bestselling thriller The Good Son 'A book of revelations for murder both violent yet graceful, dark yet poetic. With sharp humour and sparkling prose, Un-su Kim stylishly spins the tale of the extraordinary life of an ordinary assassin.' Jungmyung Lee [J.M. Lee], author of The Investigation ‘An incredible cast of characters…a first-rate thriller.’ Le Monde ‘A rich, funny, cynical Korean roman noir…a delicious surprise.’ La Croix ‘The Plotters by Un-su Kim is a work of literary genius; a quirky, compelling, intelligent, darkly funny, highly original and thought-provoking thriller like nothing I've read. Gorgeous prose elevates the basest of characters and answers the question: How can ours be a life well-lived if we only do as we’re told? I loved this book!’ Karen Dionne, author of The Marsh King’s Daughter ‘The Plotters tells the story of Renseng, a jaded assassin who startles himself by realising—somewhat belatedly—that he has a moral code, a sense of honour, a soul. All of these will prove to be perilous liabilities in his world. Un-Su Kim is a tremendous writer, and he’s crafted a smart, stylish, and surprisingly moving thriller.’ Scott Smith, author of A Simple Plan and The Ruins

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    http://www.crimesegments.com/2019/03/... Like a 3.8 rounded up. first and foremost: If anyone in the US wants my once-read, hardcover copy, it is yours for the asking and I'll pay the postage. It needs a good home and I am out of shelf space. Expect the unexpected in this book, which is anything but your standard gun-for-hire novel. In fact, if you've considered reading it, read the blurb, and were put off by thinking that this book is just another killer-becomes-prey sort of thing, don't even go http://www.crimesegments.com/2019/03/... Like a 3.8 rounded up. first and foremost: If anyone in the US wants my once-read, hardcover copy, it is yours for the asking and I'll pay the postage. It needs a good home and I am out of shelf space. Expect the unexpected in this book, which is anything but your standard gun-for-hire novel. In fact, if you've considered reading it, read the blurb, and were put off by thinking that this book is just another killer-becomes-prey sort of thing, don't even go there. While there is plenty of action throughout the story that will make thriller readers happy, the main focus is really on the main character Reseng, whose inner reflections offer more of a philosophical side to the man. I knew I had something different in my hands in the first few pages, and my worries about it being your standard hit man story all dissolved before I even got to the second chapter, with many more surprises in store as I read. The Plotters is the sort of book where I was laughing one moment, horrified the next, but when all is said and done, the author remains primarily in the inner life of the main character. It is, in fact, the people in this book who make it successful and to his great credit, the author rises well above mere genre (although some of the trappings are definitely there) to make this a very human story. And while not perfect (it starts to read like a movie in the last half or so) it is also one of the most literary crime thrillers I've read, complete with history and social issues, and despite its faults, it is nicely written. I'd seriously read anything this author has written or will write in the future. I will say that I have a bone to pick with whoever wrote the dustjacket blurb because they gave away way more than I wanted to know before I'd even started the book, which was seriously disappointing. And don't believe all the "Tarantino mashup" crap -- this is not that. Bottom line: it's a definite yes, and this is coming from someone who likely would not pick up a novel about a hit man by choice.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

    Reseng is an assassin. Assassin's follow instructions made by plotters, who decide who will die, when and how, and who will kill them. On the positive side I did like the characters, this is obviously a strong point for the author. There were definitely interesting personalities in the book, some craziness and individuality which I liked. There were a couple of scenes in the book I enjoyed, probably most of all the very beginning of the book where Reseng meets and old man and his dog. I loved the Reseng is an assassin. Assassin's follow instructions made by plotters, who decide who will die, when and how, and who will kill them. On the positive side I did like the characters, this is obviously a strong point for the author. There were definitely interesting personalities in the book, some craziness and individuality which I liked. There were a couple of scenes in the book I enjoyed, probably most of all the very beginning of the book where Reseng meets and old man and his dog. I loved the idea of the library, and the pet crematorium was also a glimmer of genius. Sounds exciting and interesting, but actually I found the book to be quite slow and not very exciting at all. I feel like it was more of a conversational, thoughtful piece than anything else, but not one that was particularly immersive. I also think that something was lost in translation, because the writing seemed a bit stilted in places and not very flowing. Some of the language seemed a little clumsy. Overall this was quite a disappointing piece and I found it quite difficult to push through to the end. Sadly I can't say I would recommend this to anyone. A shame because there were good things about it, but on the whole I didn't enjoy it much.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    Lyrical, but that may be the contribution of the translator, this unusual quirky thriller from Korea defies description. I've tagged it as both dystopian and noir, so it is a highly original mashup of the two. Thirty-two year old Renseng is an assassin, discovered in a garbage pail and raised by the shadowy figure who discovered him. He starts questioning the powers that drive his assignments, and that is what propels the plot. Interestingly, some of the other reviews identified the location as Lyrical, but that may be the contribution of the translator, this unusual quirky thriller from Korea defies description. I've tagged it as both dystopian and noir, so it is a highly original mashup of the two. Thirty-two year old Renseng is an assassin, discovered in a garbage pail and raised by the shadowy figure who discovered him. He starts questioning the powers that drive his assignments, and that is what propels the plot. Interestingly, some of the other reviews identified the location as North Korea, when the book's description clearly states Seoul. Then again, maybe North Korea could be described as a dystopian version of its southern neighbor.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    South Korean crime novel about assasins-for-hire. Complex characters, some dark humor thrown in, and great writing. The translation is excellent, too.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lena

    “Will this book make the world a happier place? Hard to say, but I doubt it.” Enter the (hopefully) factionalized dystopia of South Korea; a land of plotters, trackers, assassins, and victims in an ever revolving wheel. A character driven story of destruction. “The idea that you could kill someone for something you believe in suddenly filled him with fear. When he thought about it, that might’ve been what made plotters tick.” “You know the story. The sad story of the hero who hunts down a mon “Will this book make the world a happier place? Hard to say, but I doubt it.” Enter the (hopefully) factionalized dystopia of South Korea; a land of plotters, trackers, assassins, and victims in an ever revolving wheel. A character driven story of destruction. “The idea that you could kill someone for something you believe in suddenly filled him with fear. When he thought about it, that might’ve been what made plotters tick.” “You know the story. The sad story of the hero who hunts down a monster, only to become a monster herself in the end. I am that tragic hero.” “People think villains like me are going to hell. But that’s not true. Villains are already in hell. Living every moment in darkness, without so much as a single ray of light in your heart, that’s hell.” “People always end up resembling that which they hate the most.” “You’re not the only one with a story. So stop acting as if you know everything, as if you’re the only tragic one here.” The first chapter was a short story that drew me in; that yen to know more. While not in my wheelhouse of Read/Recommend I had a good time, a thoughtful time. 3.5 stars. Thank you again Goldsboro! The Plotters was Goldsboro Books January 2019 Book of the Month. I received 315/700, with sprayed edges, signed by the author, and a custom bookmark.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tom Mooney

    I absolutely loved this excellent Korean thriller. It is utterly gripping and I could hardly bring myself to put it down over the past day or so. It follows Reseng, at 32 years old a veteran of the assassination industry and fatigued by a life of killing, still scarred from the loss of his one chance at a normal life ten years earlier. After being dragged into a plot to take down the kingpins of Seoul's death agencies, he finds himself questioning life, death and his role in this brutal underworl I absolutely loved this excellent Korean thriller. It is utterly gripping and I could hardly bring myself to put it down over the past day or so. It follows Reseng, at 32 years old a veteran of the assassination industry and fatigued by a life of killing, still scarred from the loss of his one chance at a normal life ten years earlier. After being dragged into a plot to take down the kingpins of Seoul's death agencies, he finds himself questioning life, death and his role in this brutal underworld. The writing and translation is fantastic, the story is cool and fast-paced, the characters are well drawn and the whole thing is packed with plenty of local flavour. A wonderful piece of pure, classy escapism.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Silvia Moreno-Garcia

    There are two novels here. The one that is promised at the beginning of The Plotters, when Reseng has a conversation with a target, a conversation which is thrilling and keeps you guessing about the conclusion, and then another novel that just peters out. Some nice noir moments, like Reseng discovering a bomb in his toilet, end up feeling like puzzle pieces that don't quite align. Read more: https://www.npr.org/2019/01/28/688371... There are two novels here. The one that is promised at the beginning of The Plotters, when Reseng has a conversation with a target, a conversation which is thrilling and keeps you guessing about the conclusion, and then another novel that just peters out. Some nice noir moments, like Reseng discovering a bomb in his toilet, end up feeling like puzzle pieces that don't quite align. Read more: https://www.npr.org/2019/01/28/688371...

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sophie

    *3,5 A novel where "assassination guilds compete for market dominance" and which feels like an almost surreal combination of Tarantino and Murakami's narratives; the way the characters express themselves, their logic and reactions, are emphatically Asian, which means "not Western", whilst the plot is a classic thriller, full of eerily ironic discussions of assassination, of death, of body disposal, of corruption, of honour. The copy was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jacki (Julia Flyte)

    Like the surreal mash-up of a Quentin Tarantino film and a Haruki Murakami novel.

  27. 4 out of 5

    oshizu

    4.5 stars rounded down. I will be reading more thrillers by this author. The translator, Sora-Kim Russell, also did a superb job.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    Plot itself becomes the problem with The Plotters – there’s plenty of explanation of its mechanics and not enough story in its telling. For all its literary ambition, the strength of this book lies in its visual sense. Kim conjures a gloriously dreamlike alternative Korea, with vibrant settings, heightened reality and choreographed ultra-violence. One feels more like a viewer than a reader, observing this world rather being absorbed within it. It isn't a lie when I say the plot is filled with ho Plot itself becomes the problem with The Plotters – there’s plenty of explanation of its mechanics and not enough story in its telling. For all its literary ambition, the strength of this book lies in its visual sense. Kim conjures a gloriously dreamlike alternative Korea, with vibrant settings, heightened reality and choreographed ultra-violence. One feels more like a viewer than a reader, observing this world rather being absorbed within it. It isn't a lie when I say the plot is filled with holes, unclear ending, seemingly a classic massive network of syndicates which exist due to the greed of the people in power. However for people who seek their in-depth story, compelling flow of the plot, and clusters of ugly truths adaptive in life, this is the one. I personally felt the power impacted from the way the author narrates the story is outweighing the missing aspects of this story. In fact, at my first glance, I loved it to such extent. However, having pondered for a whole day, I've gathered the pros and cons of the story, and truth to be told, I still love this book. "It doesn't matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice.“ might be my favorite one so far.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Doubledf99.99

    A very good thriller about an assassin company operating in Seoul, a few good fight scenes with Henckle's as the weapon of choice, some long dialogue and might make a good movie with the right director. A Highly recommended read. "Villains are already in hell. Living every moment in darkness, without so much as a single ray of light in your heart, that’s hell. Shivering in terror, wondering when you’ll become a target, when the assassins will appear. True hell is living in a constant state of fea A very good thriller about an assassin company operating in Seoul, a few good fight scenes with Henckle's as the weapon of choice, some long dialogue and might make a good movie with the right director. A Highly recommended read. "Villains are already in hell. Living every moment in darkness, without so much as a single ray of light in your heart, that’s hell. Shivering in terror, wondering when you’ll become a target, when the assassins will appear. True hell is living in a constant state of fear, without even knowing that you’re in hell.” Kim, Un-su. The Plotters (p. 274). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This was a lightning fast read, both because of the smooth writing and the whip-crack story. Part Ghost Dog, part Le Carré, all Korean action thriller. The protagonist Reseng is an assassin raised in a defunct library by a foster father/crime lord boss called Old Raccoon. Reseng is a skilled killer, but as he begins to question his life, entangled in the ultra-high-stakes world of Korean government and elite business “plotters,” he starts to pull that world apart around himself. Reseng is remark This was a lightning fast read, both because of the smooth writing and the whip-crack story. Part Ghost Dog, part Le Carré, all Korean action thriller. The protagonist Reseng is an assassin raised in a defunct library by a foster father/crime lord boss called Old Raccoon. Reseng is a skilled killer, but as he begins to question his life, entangled in the ultra-high-stakes world of Korean government and elite business “plotters,” he starts to pull that world apart around himself. Reseng is remarkably likable for a hired killer, with his two cats Desk and Lampshade, his reading habit, and his confused longings for a normal job, a woman to love, children, a life. And at the same time it’s pretty fun to watch him do his work, going up against other contract killers and either slicing and dicing or getting sliced and diced. The real plot drivers are the women, including one who’s delightfully fearless and does not give a damn. And the ending is satisfying, if not unexpected and sad.

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