Source : Review copy
Publication: 10 May 2018 from Harvill Secker
North Korea and the USA are on the brink of war
A young American woman disappears without trace from a South Korean island.
The CIA recruits her twin sister to uncover the truth.
Now, she must go undercover in the world’s most deadly state.
Only by infiltrating the dark heart of the terrifying regime will she be able to save her sister…and herself.
Star of the North is the most explosive thriller of the year – you won’t be able to put it down.
Wow! Talk about propulsive – this is a humdinger of a thriller that will capture your attention straight away, keep you in its enthralling grip and only let you go once you have read the chilling and explosive finale.
Incredibly timely, this book will draw you into life in North Korea through the eyes of Cho Sang-ho, a Colonel in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and his brother, also a member of the elite class and an elderly woman, Mrs Moon, living off what little she can scrounge in order to survive. Their lives will cross and intersect, though neither would guess it as we learn of the incredible bureaucracy and cruelty of the North Korean façade and of the terrible conditions that most of its citizens live in. Oppression through the hands of the State security forces, the Bowibu and corruption is widespread; even Mrs Moon starts to discover how she can make the black market work for her. Crystal meth is everywhere. There are many parallels with stories of Russian gulags, but although the author points to the established facts about the astonishing tales he tells in this book, the whole thing has the feel of a James Bond movie writ large.
Our James Bond, though, is a woman. Jenna ( Jee-min) Williams, a young and promising academic at Georgetown University in D.C., is persuaded to join the CIA because her twin sister, Soo-Min, part African American and part Korean was lost – presumably drowned, though Jenna fears abducted- from a South Korean beach twelve years ago.
Jenna and Cho’s lives will cross for the first time when Cho is honoured to be chosen to attend a diplomatic mission for his country to N.Y.C. There, he meets Jenna, who questions him about her sister. Though extremely wary of Jenna, Cho has his own reasons for holding on to her visiting card and when Jenna goes to North Korea posing as a journalist writing about as the country’s nuclear missile programme, the two cross paths again in a way that will entwine their lives more deeply.
North Korea is a hard country to get into and even harder to get to know. D.B. John has done a great job in colourfully and graphically showing us what life is like behind the velvet curtain for the Dear Leader’s (Kim Jong-Il) citizens.
Star of the North is as gripping and compelling a thriller as I have read. It stands well alongside the best of popular thrillers produced by the likes of Baldacci and Meltzer. It is fast paced, has a kickass female protagonist and is outrageous and most horrifyingly of all, almost true.
If this cracker of a book is not made into a movie I will be astonished.
D. B. John was born in Wales. He began training as a lawyer but switched to a career in publishing, editing popular children’s books on history and science. In 2009 he moved to Berlin, Germany, to write his first novel, Flight from Berlin. He has lived in South Korea and is one of the few Westerners to have visited North Korea. He co-authored The Girl With Seven Names, Hyeonseo Lee’s New York Times bestselling memoir about her escape from North Korea. He lives in London.