The Korean War is the backdrop for The Martyred, but the story could just as easily be set in Afghanistan or the Central African Republic today.
Richard E. Kim presents his novel as a first-person account by a South Korean Army Captain stationed in Pyongyang between the expulsion of the Communists and their recapture of the city.
Shortly before pulling out, the Communists seized 14 Christian ministers and shot 12 of them to death. Korean Army Intelligence wants to know whether the 12 were martyrs — great anti-Communist propaganda — or if the two were informers.
Only one of the two ministers survived with enough brain function to be able to tell the truth about what happened, and the Rev. Shin seems to be hiding a secret. Did he lie? Is he lying now? Captain Lee must uncover the truth.
Although Kim is frugal with adjectives, his simple prose creates an atmosphere as terrifying as any Gothic novel. There’s something about the good guys that feels untrustworthy.
Kim’s prose isn’t hard to read, but readers have to pay close attention. Every sentence is on the quiz — and some day your life might depend on knowing the right answers.
By Richard E. Kim
Seoul, Korea: Sam Jung-Dang
1964 bestseller #7
My grade: A-
© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni