Un-Su Kim’s The Plotters focuses on contract killer Reseng, who grew up in the Doghouse, a library run by Old Raccoon, who functions more or less as a booking agent for contract killers. It Kim’s South Korea, contract killers seem to be prevalent and busy, caring out the orders of the wealthy and connected politicians and entrepreneurs. In fact, contract killers are so common they are driving down the price.
The first story opens with Reseng sighting in on his prey, an old man who is watering flowers and playing with his dog. He decides to wait until morning and is found by the old man who invites him in for supper. He spends a lovely evening with the old man which leads to a small decision, truly a small decision, but one that leads to the next story and the next and the next. Along the way, Reseng finds love, uncovers some plots, challenges a superior competitor, and resolves to save the world, in his way.
The Plotters is an unusual novel in that its eleven chapters can each function on their own as a short story. In fact, I think I like it better thinking of it as an anthology than a novel. While this is a book about a contract killer and several people die, I have to admit it does not feel gruesome or gratuitous, which is kind of strange if you think about it. The death is so much part of the character’s story and development and it’s never something enjoyed. Well, there may be an exception but that would be a spoiler.
I enjoyed the story, I liked Reseng. The women’s cabal to save the world is a madcap thread that provides a surreal twist to this otherwise noir story. They add comic relief, the ridiculousness of it all makes it a sharper satire. In the end, I really loved this new genre Kim creates, Manic Noir.
There is a moral to the story and that is where it gets a bit heavy-handed. There are a few sentences that would sit in perfect comfort on a gauzy soft-focus photo with lots of sunlight and flowers wearing a pretty, script font. The reader realizes without any aphorisms that Reseng has lived a life he never chose. We do want him to choose, perhaps sooner, perhaps more wisely.
The Plotters will be published January 29th. I received an e-galley from the publisher through NetGalley.