Format Hardcover
Publication Date 08/15/15
ISBN 9781605988467
Trim Size / Pages 8.6 x 5.8 in / 336

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The Investigation

A Novel

J. M. Lee

A Smithsonian Best Book of the Year Fukuoka Prison, 1944.  Beyond the prison walls, the war rages.  Inside, a man is found brutally murdered.  What follows is a searing portrait of Korea before their civil war, and a testimony to the redemptive power of poetry. 

Watanbe Yuichi, a young guard with a passion for reading, is ordered to investigate a murder. The victim, Sugiyama, also a guard, was feared and despised throughout the prison and inquiries have barely begun when a powerful inmate confesses. But Watanbe is unconvinced; and as he interrogates both the suspect and Yun Dong-ju, a talented Korean poet, he starts to realize that the fearsome guard was not all he appeared to be...

As Watanbe unravels Sugiyama's final months, he begins to discover what is really going on inside this dark and violent institution, which few inmates survive: a man who will stop at nothing to dig his way to freedom; a governor whose greed knows no bounds; a little girl whose kite finds an unlikely friend. And Yun Dong-ju—the poet whose works hold such beauty the can break the hardest of hearts.

As the war moves towards its devastating close and bombs rain down upon the prison, Watanbe realizes that he must find a way to protect Yun Dong-ju, no matter what it takes. As he digs further and further in to his investigation, the young guard discovers a devastating truth.

At once a captivating mystery and an epic lament for lost freedom and humanity, The Investigation, inspired by a true story, is a sweeping and gripping tale by an international literary star.

J. M. Lee has sold hundreds of thousands of books in his native Korea. One, Deep Rooted Tree, was made into a popular T.V. series. This is his first book to be launched in the United States.

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Endorsements & Reviews

“Lee’s U.S. debut is a breathtakingly beautiful novel that boasts a cerebral murder mystery and a rare look at the human impact of Japan’s colonialism in Korea. David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars (1994) makes an excellent pairing, providing a contrasting, but also beautifully portrayed, exploration of the impact of Japan’s role in WWII.” Booklist (starred review)
“Inspired by the too-brief life of Korean poet-hero Yun Dong-Ju, whose surviving verses are hauntingly interspersed throughout, this work is a magnificent testimony to the profound efficacy of literature and the liberating, life-saving act of reading. If Lee’s stateside debut is any indication of the quality of his other titles, English-language audiences should demand accessibility to more, also made available under the auspices of accomplished translator Kim, one hopes. For literary fiction groupies, thriller seekers, history aficionados, war voyeurs, all, this exquisite, electrifying discovery awaits.” Library Journal (starred review)
“A heart-wrenching novel with many unexpected twists.” Sunday Times
“What begins as a murder mystery becomes a story of heartbreak, of poetry, of humanity triumphant. It celebrates the power of words, in expressing hope, in giving voice to frustration and longing, in lending strength. Though the work of a prolific Korean author, the prose suffers no awkwardness through translation. It glows. Highly recommended.” Historical Novel Society
“This effective, elaborate historical novel is from Lee, a bestseller in his native South Korea. Readers will find Lee's novel to be a satisfying mystery supplemented by rich historical detail.” Publishers Weekly
“A deeply touching tribute to the power of art. With stunning language—enhanced by an insightful translation, painfully resonant characters and heart-pounding suspense—Lee crafts a gripping, complex account of literature's ability to transform and unite those it touches. Marvelous. This is a book to savor from beginning to end.” Shelf Awareness
“A rollicking good mystery tale. It is also a volume of poetry, with heartbreaking verses of love and loss set against the backdrop of war. The Investigation is nearly impossible to review in a paragraph; even a whole page wouldn’t do it justice. Read it, you’ll understand.” BookPage