Church, James [A pseudonym]

views updated

Church, James [A pseudonym]




Formerly worked as a Western intelligence official.


A Corpse in the Koryo was named one of the Chicago Tribune's best crime/thriller books of the year.


A Corpse in the Koryo (novel), Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2006.


James Church is the pseudonym of a former Western intelligence officer who turned his years of working in Asia into the background for his suspenseful novel A Corpse in the Koryo. The book has won praise both for its taut plotting and for its revealing, realistic look at life in North Korea, a country considered by some to be the home of one of the most repressive and closed societies in the modern world. Church has said that after years of writing official intelligence reports in which he was required to present his information in a way that filtered it through Western morals, he wanted to try to present a truer picture of North Korea, one that would be accessible to a much wider audience. Commenting on A Corpse in the Koryo in the Washington Post, Glenn Kessler stated: "Much of Church's writing is quite beautiful—one wonders what his intelligence reports read like—with keen observations of even the smallest details." The author not only describes the landscape in detail, but also the attachment that the North Korean people feel for their land and their country, ravaged though it is after years of failed government policies.

Church's primary character, known as Inspector O, is an intelligent man with a good sense of humor. He, like most of the other characters, is constantly on guard against betrayal, and is very defensive about the peculiar state of life in North Korea. Given a fairly routine task to do, he is unable to carry it out because he is not properly equipped. As he moves from headquarters in Pyongyang to several outposts, Inspector O encounters complications and malfunctions at every step of the way. The story doesn't proceed in typical linear fashion, but it is nonetheless a "gripping" tale told by "an admirable stylist," according to a Kirkus Reviews contributor. David Pitt, reviewing the novel in Booklist, noted that the prose is "richly layered and visually evocative," of a "superb" quality not often found in a first novel.



Booklist, June 1, 2006, David Pitt, review of A Corpse in the Koryo, p. 43.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2006, review of A Corpse in the Koryo, p. 810.

Publishers Weekly, July 31, 2006, review of A Corpse in the Koryo, p. 56.

Time, January 11, 2007, Tim Morrison, review of A Corpse in the Koryo,

Washington Post, December 27, 2006, Glenn Kessler, review of A Corpse in the Koryo, p. A17.


Nautilus Institute, (December 18, 2006), Peter Hayes, "Inspector O and the Case of the Missing Tea Thermos"; (December 19, 2006), James Church, "Inspector O Gets a Thermos."

About this article

Church, James [A pseudonym]

Updated About content Print Article