Bamboo and Blood: An Inspector O Novel, James Church (Thomas Dunne Books)

Grade: Β — Fantastic book within the genre, probably worth reading regardless of which genre’s you like, but has a setting or style that may not appeal to individuals who are not fans of a given genre.  Also, to avoid bias, the highest grade I’ll give a book by someone I know and like.

In brief:

Bamboo and Blood is the third outing for O, the North Korean Police Inspector created by James Church, and is could be his best novel yet.  Timely to the present situation in North Korea, this novel centers around the unexplained murder of a mysterious woman during a terrible famine.  As O investigates, he finds himself drawn more deeply into the web of espionage and international politics than he has gone so far. 


Modern Day North Korea, New York and Switzerland(oh yes, and a tiny little bit in Italy and France).

 In Depth:

Bamboo and Blood is an excellent espionage mystery. Indeed, I almost gave it an alpha rating, but I suspect it might not appeal to those who don’t like the genre.  Additionally, while this is a stand alone novel, Church has done such a wonderful job of bringing Inspector O to life in the previous two novels, that it is really hard to determine if I would have liked it so much if I hadn’t already been drawn to his character. 

For those who haven’t read any of the series, O is a Police Inspector in Pyongyang whose sarcasm and dry wit is only matched by his love for the people he serves.  Put that way it sounds corny, but Church does a marvelous job of creating a wonderful character that allows one an insight as to how intelligent and caring people could serve a tyrannical system. I would recommend that individuals read Church just for that element alone, but if you like mysteries or spy stories, this series is the best since LeCarré stopped writing about the Cold War.

In Blood and Bamboo O is finally drawn into a case that directly involves international espionage, and so is forced to leave his homeland and enter into the world of diplomats and spies.  In some ways, that made this a less appealing novel since less of it took place above the 38th Parallel.  However, the story gives us a glimpse into the North Korean national politics behind their sometimes bizarre international rhetoric, giving reason to rhyme.  To that end, the book makes up for the switch of setting. It also gives us a deeper glimpse into the complicated mind and family relations of Inspector O. 

The principal plot was intriguing, but as with Church’s previous novels it was the subtext and setting that stole the show.  I couldn’t put this book down, and if you like thoughtful tales of Espionage, neither will you. 

About Thomas Evans

I'm a writer of mysteries, espionage, and speculative fiction. In my previous incarnation I was an archaeologist specializing in gender and identity in Iron and Bronze Age Europe. Mostly, however, I was known for my works with the use of geomatics, multiscalular spatial analysis and landscape theory within archaeology.
This entry was posted in Espionage, Mystery, Political Drama, Series, Strong Characters, Thoughtful and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Bamboo and Blood: An Inspector O Novel, James Church (Thomas Dunne Books)

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