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Review: 사슬에서 풀려난 프로메테우스 by KIM Jae-hui

From literary circles to red-light districts, KIM Jae-hui explores the Seoul of the 1930s – called Gyeongseong – and invites us to solve a crime with two famous authors of the time…

Presentation

Title: The title of the story is 사슬에서 풀려난 프로메테우스, it is the first story of the book 경성 탐정 이상.
Author: KIM Jae-hui 김재희
Published by 시공사

There are three volumes of the series 경성 탐정 이상 written by KIM Jae-hui. Each book is composed of different stories that can be read independently. I have decided to write a review per story instead of writing a review for a whole volume because it is a little difficult to read (for a non-native) and it will take me too much time to read the whole book.

Setting

The protagonists of KIM Jae-hui are LEE Sang and Kubo, both are real famous authors who lived during the Japanese colonial rule of Korea. LEE Sang’s (or YI Sang) real name is KIM Hae-gyeong and Kubo is the pen name of author PARK Tae-won. Our story is certainly set in the 1930s, Kubo and LEE Sang meet for the first time as they both apply to enter the Circle of Nine 구인회. Both authors were members of this literary circle in real life, but in KIM Jae-hui’s novel, they have to solve a crime in order to enter the circle…

The case they have to solve is a murder that occurred some months ago in what is today Changgyeonggung. Changgyeonggung was built in the 15th Century, but under the Japanese colonial rule, the palace was transformed into a garden with cherry blossoms. Recently, it has been restored to its previous grandeur.

Why I liked it

What I liked the most in this novel is the description of Gyeongseong (the name of Seoul under Japanese colonial rule). KIM Jae-hui gives a lively image of the city and invites us to explore all its facets. It is also interesting to see what changed, and to compare the description of Gyeongseong to the capital of today.

I also liked the two main protagonists. Their respective personality and their relationship have a lot of similarities with Conan Doyle’s famous characters. I personally don’t like reading imitations of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, but LEE Sang and Kubo have unique characteristics and the Korean and historical setting helps to differentiate them from their English counterparts. Unfortunately for me, I am not familiar with the real LEE Sang or Kubo’s work, and I certainly have missed references.

As a non-native reader, this book was a little difficult to read and it took me some time to complete.

Conclusion

The first story of 경성 탐정 이상 recreates the Gyeongseong of the 1930s, with its vibrant literary scene, its secrets, and even its dangers. The setting and the characters were for me the best parts of the novel, but I also enjoyed the plot and the investigation process.

Changgyeonggung today…

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