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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

‘The Investigation’ by Jung-Myung Lee



Published by Mantle,
27 March 2014.
ISBN: 978-0-230-76871-0 (Hardback) 978-0-230-76872-7)Trade paperback
)

In Japan in 1944, Yuichi Watenabe, a young prison guard with a passion for reading, is given the task of investigating the murder of another prison guard, Sugiyama Dozan. The Fukuoko prison is for dissidents which include many Koreans who oppose the Japanese occupation of Korea. Seventeen year old Yuichi, the shy bookish boy, was called up in 1941 and assigned to prison guard duties while the murder victim, Sugiyama, was a forty year old veteran, known for his brutality. Yuichi must interrogate the Korean prisoners to find a murderer and he finds the poet, Yun Dong-ju, and the frequently punished Choi Chi-su may have information to help him understand.
This is a crime novel in which poetry and the horrors of war become central. The brutality of the treatment of the prisoners by their guards is hard to accept but the some of the prisoners manage to transcend their treatment. The atmosphere of such a prison camp is clearly evoked in beautifully spare prose. The poems of real life Yun Dong-ju are quoted, as are other Western literary books to expand an understanding of the human condition and the concept of freedom. We can follow the effects of music and poetry on individuals.
The puzzle for Yuichi seems to be solved quite quickly but the ramifications are so complex that he has to continue investigating and finding more and more inexplicable happenings. There are a number of significant images here such as the kite flying but the one I appreciated most was the use of the (real) bookworms in a library to indicate a story development. Jung-Myung Lee sways the sympathies of the reader towards different protagonists by his clever manipulation of events, attitudes and his excellent writing.
For a Western reader this gives a good impression of the Second World War war from the Korean and Japanese perspectives. It is a literary and crime novel of stature. The use of a real poet as a major character is clever.
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Reviewer: Jennifer S Palmer
Jung-myung Lee has written many books in Korean but this seems to be the first one to be translated. The translator, Chi-Young Kim, has good experience at his task.

Jung-Myung Lee  was born in Korea. He has sold hundreds of thousands of copies of his books in his native Korea. One, Deep Rooted Tree, was made into a popular TV series.







Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.


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