The Plotters

The Plotters

by Un-su Kim

Hardcover

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Overview

"THE MOST ANTICIPATED CRIME BOOKS OF 2019" (CrimeReads) "Most Anticipated Books of 2019" (Lit Hub)
"A work of literary genius; a quirky, compelling, intelligent, darkly funny, highly original and thought-provoking thriller like nothing I've read."— Karen Dionne, author of The Marsh King's Daughter

From the novelist dubbed "the Korean Henning Mankell" (The Guardian) comes a fantastical crime novel set in an alternate Seoul where assassination guilds compete for market dominance. Perfect for fans of Han Kang and Patrick deWitt.


Behind every assassination, there is an anonymous mastermind—a plotter—working in the shadows. Plotters quietly dictate the moves of the city's most dangerous criminals, but their existence is little more than legend. Just who are the plotters? And more important, what do they want?
Reseng is an assassin. Raised by a cantankerous killer named Old Raccoon in the crime headquarters "The Library," Reseng never questioned anything: where to go, who to kill, or why his home was filled with books that no one ever read. But one day, Reseng steps out of line on a job, toppling a set of carefully calibrated plans. And when he uncovers an extraordinary scheme set into motion by an eccentric trio of young women—a convenience store clerk, her wheelchair-bound sister, and a cross-eyed librarian—Reseng will have to decide if he will remain a pawn or finally take control of the plot.
Crackling with action and filled with unforgettable characters, The Plotters is a deeply entertaining thriller that soars with the soul, wit, and lyricism of real literary craft.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385544382
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/29/2019
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 297,266
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

UN-SU KIM was born in 1972 in Busan and is the author of several highly praised novels. He has won the Munhakdongne Novel Prize, Korea's most prestigious literary prize, and was nominated for the 2016 Grand Prix de Littérature Policière.

The translator, Sora Kim-Russell, is a Korean American living in Seoul, where she teaches translation.

Read an Excerpt

On Hospitality

 

 

The old man came out to the garden.

Reseng tightened the focus on the telescopic sight and pulled back the charging handle. The bullet clicked loudly into the chamber. He glanced around. Other than the tall fir trees reaching for the sky, nothing moved. The forest was silent. No birds took flight, no bugs chirred. Given how still it was out here, the noise of a gunshot would travel a long way. And if people heard it and rushed over? He brushed aside the thought. No point in worrying about that. Gunshots were common out here. They would assume it was poachers hunting wild boar. Who would waste their time hiking this deep into the forest just to investigate a single gunshot? Reseng studied the mountain to the west. The sun was one hand above the ridgeline. He still had time.

The old man started watering the flowers. Some received a gulp, some just a sip. He tipped the watering can with great ceremony, as if he were serving them tea. Now and then he did a little shoulder shimmy, as if dancing, and gave a petal a brief caress. He gestured at one of the flowers and chuckled. It looked like they were having a conversation. Reseng adjusted the focus again and studied the flower the old man was talking to. It looked familiar. He must have seen it before, but he couldn’t remember what it was called. He tried to recall which flower bloomed in October—cosmos? zinnia? chrysanthemum?—but none of the names matched the one he was looking at. Why couldn’t he remember? He furrowed his brow and struggled to come up with the name but soon brushed aside that thought, too. It was just a flower—what did it matter?

A huge black dog strolled over from the other end of the garden and rubbed its head against the old man’s thigh. A mastiff, purebred. The same beast Julius Caesar had brought back from his conquest of Britain. The dog the ancient Romans had used to hunt lions and round up wild horses. As the old man gave the dog a pat, it wagged its tail and wound around his legs, getting in his way as he tried to continue his watering. He threw a deflated soccer ball across the garden, and the dog raced after it, tail wagging, while the old man returned to his flowers. Just as before, he gestured at them, greeted them, talked to them. The dog came back immediately, the flattened soccer ball between its teeth. The old man threw the ball farther this time, and the dog raced after it again. The ferocious mastiff that had once hunted lions had been reduced to a clown. And yet the old man and the dog seemed well suited to each other. They repeated the game over and over. Far from getting bored, they looked like they were enjoying it.

 

The old man finished his watering and stood up straight, stretching and smiling with satisfaction. Then he turned and looked halfway up the mountain, as if he knew Reseng was there. The old man’s smiling face entered Reseng’s crosshairs. Did he know the sun was less than a hand above the horizon now? Did he know he would be dead before it dipped below the mountain? Was that why he was smiling? Or maybe he wasn’t actually smiling. The old man’s face seemed fixed in a permanent grin, like a carved wooden Hahoe mask. Some people just had faces like that—people whose inner feelings you could never guess at, who smiled constantly, even when they were sad or angry.

Should he pull the trigger now? If he pulled it, he could be back in the city before midnight. He’d take a hot bath, down a few beers until he was good and drunk, or put an old Beatles record on the turntable and think about the fun he’d soon have with the money on its way into his bank account. Maybe, after this final job, he could change his life. He could open a pizza shop across from a high school, or sell cotton candy in the park. Reseng pictured himself handing armfuls of balloons and cotton candy to children and dozing off under the sun. He really could live that life, couldn’t he? The idea of it suddenly seemed so wonderful. But he had to save that thought for after he pulled the trigger. The old man was still alive, and the money was not yet in his account.

The mountain was swiftly casting its shadow over the old man and his cabin. If Reseng was going to pull the trigger, he had to do it now. The old man had finished watering and would be going back inside any second. The job would get much harder then. Why complicate it? Pull the trigger. Pull it now and get out of here.

The old man was smiling, and the black dog was running with the soccer ball in its mouth. The old man’s face was crystal clear in the crosshairs. He had three deep wrinkles across his forehead, a wart above his right eyebrow, and liver spots on his left cheek. Reseng gazed at where his heart would soon be pierced by a bullet. The old man’s sweater looked hand-knit, not factory-made, and was about to be drenched in blood. All he had to do was squeeze the trigger just the tiniest bit, and the firing pin would strike the primer on the 7.62 mm cartridge, igniting the gunpowder inside the brass casing. The explosion would propel the bullet forward along the grooves inside the bore and send it spinning through the air, straight toward the old man’s heart. With the high speed and destructive force of the bullet, the old man’s mangled organs would explode out the exit wound in his lower back. Just the thought of it made the fine hairs all over Reseng’s body stand on end. Holding the life of another human being in the palm of his hand always left him with a funny feeling.

Pull it.

Pull it now.

And yet for some reason, Reseng did not pull the trigger and instead set the rifle down on the ground.

“Now’s not the right time,” he muttered.

He wasn’t sure why it wasn’t the right time. Only that there was a right time for everything. A right time for eating ice cream. A right time for going in for a kiss. And maybe it sounded stupid, but there was also a right time for pulling a trigger and a right time for a bullet to the heart. Why wouldn’t there be? And if Reseng’s bullet happened to be sailing straight through the air toward the old man’s heart just as the right moment fortuitously presented itself to him? That would be magnificent. Not that he was waiting for the best possible moment, of course. That auspicious moment might never come. Or it could pass by right under his nose. It occurred to him that he simply didn’t want to pull the trigger yet. He didn’t know why, but he just didn’t. He lit a cigarette. The shadow of the mountain was creeping past the old man’s cottage.

When it turned dark, the old man took the dog inside. The cottage must not have had electricity, because it looked even darker in there. A single candle glowed in the living room, but Reseng couldn’t make out the interior well enough through the scope. The shadows of the man and his dog loomed large against a brick wall and disappeared. Now the only way Reseng could kill him from his current position would be if the old man happened to stand directly in the window with the candle in his hand.

As the sun sank below the ridge, darkness descended on the forest. There was no moon; even objects close at hand were hard to make out. There was only the glimmer of candlelight from the old man’s cottage. The darkness was so dense that it made the air seem damp and heavy. Why didn’t Reseng just leave? Why linger there in the dark? He wasn’t sure. Wait for daybreak, he decided. Once the sun came up, he’d fire off a single round—no different from firing at the wooden target he’d practiced with for years—and then go home. He put his cigarette butt in his pocket and crawled into the tent. Since there was nothing else to do to pass the time, he ate a packet of army crackers and fell asleep wrapped up in his sleeping bag.

Reseng was awakened abruptly about two hours later by heavy footsteps in the grass. They were coming straight toward his tent. Three or four irregular thuds. A torso sweeping through tall grass. He couldn’t decipher what was coming his way. Could be a wild boar. Or a wildcat. Reseng disengaged the safety and pointed his rifle at the darkness, toward the approaching sound. He couldn’t pull the trigger yet. Mercenaries lying in wait had been known to fire into the dark out of fear, without checking their targets, only to discover that they’d hit a deer or a police dog or, worse, one of their fellow soldiers lost in the forest while out scouting. They would sob next to the corpse of a brother in arms felled by friendly fire, their beefy, tattooed bodies shaking like a little girl’s as they told their commanding officers, “I didn’t mean to kill him, I swear.” And maybe they really hadn’t meant to. Since they’d never before had to face their fear of things going bump in the night, the only thing someone with muscles for brains knew how to do was point and shoot into the dark. Reseng waited calmly for whatever was out there to reveal itself. To his surprise, what emerged was the old man and his dog.

Customer Reviews

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The Plotters: A Novel 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
The Plotters is the first novel by prize-winning Korean author, Un-su Kim, in English. Reseng has been an assassin for fifteen years. His facilitator is Old Raccoon, who operates out of the library he calls The Doghouse. His instructions come from the Plotters who take orders from the Contractor. An assignment will often see Reseng presenting a body to his friend, Bear who runs a pet crematorium but will, for a fee, cremate a human body with due reverence and ceremony. Reseng is careful to maintain emotional distance from his victims, because it is important to follow the plotter’s instructions to the letter, if the assassin does not want to end up on the list himself. This has happened to two of his associates. But when Jeongan, his tracker and good friend, falls victim, it becomes personal for Reseng. And, as unlikely as it seems, the plotter is apparently a pretty young convenience store cashier. This is a story with that particular Asian quality to it: the way the characters speak, their logic, their reactions, all are distinctly “not Western”. The plot, too, is patently Asian, with a twist or two, and an exciting, although very dark, climax. There’s plenty of black humour in this rather unusual tale, along with some delightful ironies. Characters engage in matter-of-fact discussion of assassination, of death, of body disposal, of corruption, of honour, and many more aspects of life. A distinctive work of Korean crime fiction that is flawlessly translated into English by Sora Kim-Russell. This unbiased review is from a copy provided by Text Publishing.
diane92345 More than 1 year ago
Reseng is a paid assassin in South Korea. Unfortunately, The Plotters tell him exactly how to carry out each murder. Reseng feels like a paint-by-number killer with no creative outlet. When Reseng’s childhood friend Chu disobeys a plotter, Chu is targeted for murder with a hefty bounty on his head. Reseng realizes that early death is an assassin’s retirement plan and vows to do something about it. The writing style is the star here. It reads like barely remembered childhood fables told within the greater myth of David and Goliath. I usually read books in a day or two but The Plotters requires a reader to pause and reflect on each fable to fully enjoy the book. While not as out there as Murakami, Kim’s book is a journey that you will be glad you made. 4.5 stars rounded up to 5! Thanks to Doubleday Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
SammyReadsBooks More than 1 year ago
Behind every assassination, there is an anonymous mastermind--a plotter--working in the shadows. Plotters quietly dictate the moves of the city's most dangerous criminals, but their existence is little more than legend. Just who are the plotters? And more important, what do they want? The Plotters written by Un-su Kim tells the story of Reseng, an assassin in Korea, who was raised by Old Raccoon who teaches him to become an assassin. When Reseng doesn’t follow an assassination exactly the way his plotter told him too he finds himself in trouble and possibly on a hit list. When he meets up with three ladies, a convenience store clerk, her wheelchair bound sister, and a cross-eyed librarian things get really interesting. This book was beautifully written. The descriptions felt poetic even the violent parts however, this really is not the type of book I would normally read so I had a hard time getting into it. It wasn’t until about halfway through when the ladies were introduced that I got into it. I did root for Reseng the entire time and felt for him even though he is an assassin. 3.5 out of 5 stars for me. Thank you NetGalley and Doubleday Books for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Tangen More than 1 year ago
sly-humor, Korea, translated, assassins, Asia I like to see what fiction other cultures are writing and reading. I've enjoyed others from SE Asia and China, but not until now from Korea. The story itself reminds me of several other books in which assassins are a major presence, but here I can feel a lot of tongue in cheek as well as some really sneaky humor that is even worse than puns. That being said, I do think that the translator was kind enough to substitute English language vernacular when needed. Bottom line: I really enjoyed reading it! I requested and received a free ebook copy from Doubleday Books via NetGalley. Thank you!
lee2staes More than 1 year ago
The Plotters is an incredible book. A profound look into the Korean world of plotters and paid assasins, It’s a strange, convincing, clever, thought-provoking thriller like nothing I've read before. This book introduces us to plotters, fixers, assassins guilds, assassins and targets. Filled with action and unforgettable characters. A deeply entertaining thriller! I was provided an ARC of this book by NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.