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Gentleman from Japan: An Inspector O Novel    by James Church order for
Gentleman from Japan
by James Church
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2016 (2016)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Gentleman from Japan is the sixth in James Church's Inspector O spy series, but the first one I had read. At this point, the wily Inspector (once a senior North Korean intelligence officer) lives with his nephew, Major Bing, Chief of State Security in Yanji, China (located near the border with North Korea).

The corrupt mayor of Yanji causes problems for Bing, who is also constantly on edge about what his uncle might do next - despite the fact that the Inspector apparently spends his days on carpentry. Bing keeps a close eye on his new deputy; renews his relationship with Mongolian special agent Tuya; and wonders why a Chinese gangster has recently returned to town. On top of all this, seven corpses in four of the city's eateries are definitely not good for business!

This episode is centered on dumpling makers being produced in a factory near Barcelona, Spain, for export to North Korea. Sounds innocuous, but those dumplings will pack quite the spice! The equipment to make them will also include a key technical component needed to produce nuclear weapons, something the West would like to keep far from the North Koreans. As all these dumplings simmer in their respective pots, O announces to Bing that he's heading to Portugal.

O's old friend Luis had inexplicably come to Yanji, seeking O's help in repayment of a debt. They travel together to Portugal and on to Barcelona where O is asked to pose as Japanese and infiltrate the dumpling maker factory - no one had warned him that an undercover agent was already in place. After a variety of violent encounters in Spain, the action picks up again in Yanji in 'an enveloping cloud of misdirection'.

These spy novels have been compared to the work of John le Carre, which seems apt. Inspector O is a very interesting character with the soul of a poet.

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