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Hidden Moon

(Inspector O #2)

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  605 ratings  ·  85 reviews
In A Corpse in the Koryo, James Church introduced readers to one of the most unique detectives to appear on page in years — the elusive Inspector O. The stunning mystery was named one of the best mystery/thrillers of 2006 by the Chicago Tribune for its beautifully spare prose and layered descriptions of a terrain Church knows by heart.

And now the Inspector is back. In Hidd
...more
Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Published (first published October 30th 2007)
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Average rating 3.78  · 
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Jeffrey Keeten
Mar 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
”Over the years, completely out of channels, a classification system for cases had grown up among the sector-level inspectors. The Ministry often sent down memos warning against the use of this unsanctioned system, only reinforcing suspicions that it was pretty close to accurate. Category one cases were simple enough--those we were expected to investigate and, where possible solve. Category two cases were those we were expected to be seen as investigating but not to solve. Category three cases w ...more
Carol
Hidden Moon is the second in James Church's Inspector O series, police procedurals set in North Korea. (I haven't read the first book in the series and didn't at any point feel as though I was missing context or that characters had previously developed relationships not explained by this novel.)

What I loved? The setting, having a window on North Korea, and something to replace Orphan Son as my only information on this fascinating, close society. Inspector O - a great character endeavoring to f
...more
Kristina
This is the second Inspector O book. These books are so odd. The plot is not a straight-forward murder investigation; it's wrapped up in the politics of North Korea. Very interesting. The author (who uses a pseudonym) used to be some sort of covert agent in North Korea so the details and the atmosphere of the novel ring true. It's a very bleak and joyless place, Pyongyang, North Korea. Inspector O doesn't seem to get paid very often and when he eats his noodle soup at this diner, the owner doesn ...more
Mal Warwick
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In some ways, advances in science and in transportation and communications have given us the impression that there are few mysteries left in the world. After all, we can go anywhere, exchange views with almost anyone anywhere in the world, and gain access to information about what seems to be just about anything through the World Wide Web. But there is one very large stretch of territory that holds little else but mysteries: the rogue nation of North Korea.

An education about North Korea

Several e
...more
Ann
Apr 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderfully noir murder mystery set in modern day North Korea. There is plenty of cultural and political detail, but the characters are what drive this story. The narrator is the very Sam Spade-like Inspector O, a perceptive, sardonic man who appreciates good food, good liquor, and beautiful women, but prizes his solitary life. He has a thing about wood - don't ask. There are also bankers and Scotsmen and Germans and noodle cooks and bartenders and blind men and Kazakhs and Russians and a very ...more
Dan Downing
Apr 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The second in the Inspector O series, this book looks at North Korea in a different light than "The Orphan Master's Son". Church is described as a former Western intelligence officer with extensive Eastern experiences, writing under a pseudonym. As such his books evoke LeCarre or Graham Greene more than any gun slinger espionage efforts. Since Inspector O is our lead character, there is a strong dose of Ed McBain and the 'police procedural'. In fact, it is the portrait of a civilian police depar ...more
Jeanne
Dec 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries, read-2015
I read the first of the Inspector O series based on Nicholas Kristof's recommendation. (Hidden Moon is the second in this series.) I'll trust Kristof that this series provides a good view of North Korea, although it is an often bleak one, not tempting me to visit. However, Inspector O is smart and cynical, with an arid sense of humor. He observed, "Category 3 [criminal] cases were those we were to avoid—leave every stone unturned. In fact, for a category three case, it was best not even to recor ...more
Dolly
This is the second book in the Inspector O series by James Church. I read the first book many years ago, during a trip to Korea and I really liked it; I'm surprised that it has taken me so long to get back to the series.

I enjoyed the story, but it was very convoluted and somewhat hard to follow at times. Perhaps I just wasn't paying close enough attention to the audiobook. The narrator,Feodor Chin, does a great job at varying the characters' voices, but sometimes the plot would change so dramati
...more
Matt
Apr 17, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the second Inspector O novel I've read. I read Corpse in the Koryo and found it equal parts fascinating-- all the internal stuff-- and infuriating-- all the hotel room interrogation sequences, essentially the spy/ geopolitical stuff. So I wanted to read another of Church's novels, to see if the situation changed any once he's laid out the basics.

And the answer? A little confusing, actually. The first half of this book I like a lot more: the mystery was more interesting (a bank robbery le
...more
Lisa Sansone
I really wanted to like this book, in part because I've come to really like intelligent detective series that struggle with real issues and introduce me to different cultures (Olen Steinhauer, Jo Nesbo).

While I still think the writer is quite talented in some ways, and while I appreciate the concept and tone of the series, I have the following thoughts:

- For me, this book didn't follow all that well as a follow-up to the first book. Given all that happened in the first novel, I guess I was expec
...more
Philip
Okay, I hereby give up on Inspector O. First book was great, second was pretty-to-very good, but this one is just too much of the same - especially the same negatives: overly complex plot, too-clever (and far too many) characters, and an ultimately disappointing ending.

I went in to this with high expectations, since the plot was supposed to focus on a simple bank robbery in Pyongyang, and so I was hoping for a more straightforward story. But alas, not the case. A multitude of characters, plot co
...more
Kevin Scott
The hook that makes this book so compelling also makes it a frustrating read. O doesn't know what political forces are manipulating him, and only wants to know when his survival is at stake. But the book attempts to convey the absurdity of the North Korean state by never revealing these arbitrary forces that move people around. It's interesting, and effectively conveys the absurdity of the North Korean state, but it makes reading the novel occasionally frustrating. In addition to the poverty and ...more
Kirsten "keep calm there are only 5 days left"
Jan 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of the Dr Siri Paiboun series
The second book in the Inspector O series and so much better than the first. If you like Colin Cotterill's Dr Siri Paiboun series, you'll love this one. I really enjoy this -- part mystery, part political thriller. The factor of adding a restriction to a good detective story - namely the repressive atmosphere of a dictatorship - adds so much to this.

The detective is a lot of fun too. One aspect I really enjoy is the characterization of the society of Pyongyang. The idea that there are problems
...more
Bill Lively
Nov 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Inspector O is a police detective in North Korea, that murky, little known country. The author, James Church, a pseudonym, was an Asian expert intelligence office for many years. To me the story is fair, but the cautious interaction and suspicions of North Korean government and police officials for each other, and everyone else, makes for an interesting read. No question can ever be given a direct answer. Everything is indirect, allusions, metaphors, etc. It is a tough place to be an official.
Ludditus
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Contrary to what some people say, don’t you dare to read this second novel in the series before the first one. I know you’ll miss Chief Inspector Pak, but it will help you understand how such an absurd country can still have some of its people functioning more or less in an intelligible, rational and coherent way.

Rest assured, despite Inspector O being a simple police inspector, nothing in any novel involving him is pure police work. In DPRK, it’s always a game between the various secret securi
...more
Joyce
Oct 20, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book because it takes place in North Korea, a country about which I know very little. While it's not the greatest police procedural I've ever read, it does provide hilarious descriptions of the North Korean bureaucracy and interesting glimpses of how a totalitarian regime affects the psyche of its citizens. The sparse style isn't quite Hemingway and the intellect isn't quite Orwell's, but I now understand how you can have a country without bank robberies. ...more
Anna
Mar 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookcrossing, 2014
Brilliant. Bizarre atmosphere, witty observations, police policing the police...
This was my first time meeting Inspector O, and I can't wait for more.
Also bizarre story with North Korea's first bank robbery and deaths without bodies. The places, people, and details that are odd (and of course exotic), and the police policing the police, they all create the odd, bizarre feel. 4.5 stars - that just has to be rounded to 5 since I'm craving for more Inspector O.
...more
William
Bk 2 with Inspector O in North Korea. A bank robbery is assigned to O but he is not sure if anyone wants it solved or just forgotten. Departments hide facts and no one co-operates. The conflicts and secrecy are so involved that at the end I'm not sure what really happened or who was part of what and did we really resolve anything?
If I thought the first in the series was murky, this was impenetrable.
I liked it while I was reading it but now I sort of wonder why.
...more
Darwin8u
Oct 22, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
Church's second Inspector O novel struck gold with its dialogue and textured setting, was hit-and-miss with its characters, and was only so-so in developing its plot (sorta felt phoned-in on a spotty line). For me, the novel was a bookshelf whose corners just didn't quite square. You can tell the Church cared about the project, but the pieces just didn't all fit in the end. ...more
Patrick Sherriff
A great little hardboiled detective story with the delightful twist of setting it in North Korea and our hero being a Nork cop. That alone is brilliant. A few annoyances -- opening the book with weather put me off reading it for a year -- but hey, as I said, there are dashes of humour and flashes of brilliance here, and that's more than enough for me. ...more
Solveig
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Love the wry sense of humour! But a bit complicated to follow the details, it must be said.
Kat Walter
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More conversation than action. Liked this more than first in series. Politically confusing for me at times, but I enjoyed the ride.
Mary Helene
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
Oh, delightful. I just finished a book that I really liked for its imaginative topic - but when I started reading Hidden Moon, I realized that the real glory in a book is its prose. So, 5 stars for its prose. (An example? See pg. 137, for the two paragraphs describing the weather as gray.)

I had a few quibbles with the suspension of disbelief, beginning around p.147 when the Scot appears. He and O have sophisticated repartee - and that just doesn't work with 2 people who meet each other for the
...more
L.P. Ring
Oct 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The follow up to 'Corpse in the Koryo' sees Inspector O returned relatively unscathed to North Korea's capital after his adventures in the countryside in Book 1. Now he has a new boss, a new agent looking over his shoulder and new women in his life.

A new case as well. A bank robbery has taken place in Pyongyang, and O is tasked with solving a case that he is convinced no one wants solved. By the time he's finished he'll have met a moody Scotsman, a beautiful woman from Kazakhstan, and the usual
...more
LHbooks
Aug 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bleak, and oblique. I don't know what all the words in this book were doing, as the plot was about how nobody knows anything, and we don't learn much about any of the characters either. I still read it with interest. I did enjoy how the author showed O's disdain for foreigners who think they know more about what his country needs than he does, or who mock and despise it. At the end I had some idea of the plot and maneuverings that the whole book had been about, but not much. That's ... about all ...more
Syrdarya
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Inspector O is assigned the case of North Korea's first bank robbery. No one wants to help him with the case, and he certainly doesn't want to investigate it, either. He keeps trying to give up the case, but someone higher up is pressuring his supervisor to find out who is responsible.

The book was rather slow, and then at the end there was such a mess of agencies working with/against/beside each other that I'm not really sure I understood what happened, and I'm not sure the characters knew ever
...more
Alejandrina
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Is this a gripping mystery you read overnight? No.It moves slowly, reminding you of George Smiley's adventures, where you are in the dark until the very end, with lots of groups of North Korean and other nasties with their own agendas coming in and out of view. People die in various ways, you have no idea why until the end. If you can swim in such waters, it's a great book and I highly recommend it. And then, the crown jewel: a peek inside North Korea's society from someone who has been there. I ...more
Paulette
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So interesting to read a mystery novel where the detective, Inspector O, not only has to solve murders but is also hindered by the red tape of North Korean society. The author is listed as "a former Western intelligence officer with decades of experience in Asia" so the series has an authentic feel to its characters. Great read! If you are interested in this series, start with the first novel "A Corpse in Koryo" ...more
Becky
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
After enjoying the first Inspector O mystery, I am sorry to say that I found Hidden Moon (Inspector O #2) to be too convoluted and way too many references to the pieces of wood O fingers as he works through the clues to solve the mystery. I do enjoy the writing of Frank Church when he is describing the countryside and people of North Korea. Not sure whether I will continue on with this series or not.
Dale
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
much better written #2 in the series of 4 (so far) and easier to follow than the 1st one. Lots of information about N. Korea culture interspersed in the sometimes surprisingly humorous saga. Slower moving for a detective novel than I am accustomed too but this one is much better (tho’ didn’t win any awards, like #1 in the series) than previous one. Hardback, 2007, 295 pgs., purchased via Half.com
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James Church is the pseudonym of the author of four detective novels featuring a North Korean policeman, "Inspector O." Church is identified on the back cover of his novels as "a former Western intelligence officer with decades of experience in Asia". He grew up in the San Fernando Valley in the United States and was over 60 years old in 2009. His "Inspector O" novels have been well-received, bein ...more

Other books in the series

Inspector O (6 books)
  • A Corpse in the Koryo (Inspector O, #1)
  • Bamboo and Blood (Inspector O, #3)
  • The Man with the Baltic Stare (Inspector O, #4)
  • A Drop of Chinese Blood (Inspector O, #5)
  • The Gentleman from Japan (Inspector O, #6)

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Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” So, this January, as we celebrate Martin Luther King...
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“Over the years, completely out of channels, a classification system for cases had grown up among sector-level inspectors. The Ministry often sent down memos warning against the use of this unsanctioned system, only reinforcing suspicions that it was pretty close to accurate. Category one cases were simple enough - those we were expected to investigate and, where possible, solve. Category two cases were those we were expected to be seen as investigating but not to solve. Category three cases were those we were to avoid - leave every stone unturned. In fact, for a category three case, it was best not even to record that there were any stones. No records, no files, no nothing.” 2 likes
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