Un-Su Kim’s The Plotters is the story of a strangely endearing assassin fighting for both continued business and personal survival in South Korea’s hectic election season.
Reseng was raised in the Dog Library, the hub of government-sponsored murder for hire, after being abandoned in a garbage can as an infant. Old Raccoon, the appointed head of the Library, rescued Reseng and brought him into an unconventional family of trained killers. Though Reseng never had formal education, he taught himself to read and was instructed in various killing techniques by brother-figures who had also been pseudo-adopted by Old Raccoon.
Due to Old Raccoon’s age and the Library’s declining influence in the now-crowded murder-for-hire business, Reseng feels a target on his back as the South Korean population prepares to elect new leaders. In a distinct and fascinating fashion, the reader is transported along on his journey while he examines the paths he may have chosen (marriage and family), disastrous decisions (not following the explicit orders of the plotters in one or two assassinations), and the comfort of his childhood spent amongst dusty old books.
Along the way we are treated to a fascinating and sometimes endearing cast of characters including the crematorium operator, an “invisible” man, a chatty shopkeeper and a cross-eyed, furiously knitting clerk.
The Plotters was an engrossing read, and I’m very glad I discovered it. The first two-thirds were a tour de force but I found myself a bit disappointed in some aspects of the plot toward the end. Where the book really shown was in the introspective pieces of Reseng’s character, and the relationships he forged with others in the business. I also loved reading of the seedy not-quite-underbelly called The Meat Market, and the old fashioned customs and respect paid to father figures in South Korean culture.