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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Photo Shop Murder

Kim Young-ha

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To purchase Photo Shop Murder

Title: Photo Shop Murder
Author: Kim Young-ha
Genre: Stories
Written: (Eng. 2003)
Length: 96 pages
Original in: Korean
Availability: Photo Shop Murder - US
Photo Shop Murder - UK
Photo Shop Murder - Canada
  • Two stories: Photo Shop Murder and Whatever Happened to the Guy in the Elevator
  • Translated by Jason Rhodes

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Our Assessment:

B : reasonably entertaining stories, but a bit thin

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       This small book contains only two stories, Photo Shop Murder and Whatever Happened to the Guy in the Elevator.
       Photo Shop Murder is a police procedural, narrated by the investigating officer. The murder is that of a photo shop owner, and in grilling the wife and then a customer the narrator unearths quite a bit, which makes for good opportunities for noirish atmosphere and commentary.
       Jaded and gruff, the narrator has lost his wife to Jesus; he once hoped to write a novel -- " A really beautiful love story" -- but he doesn't have the heart for it any longer. As to the computer he uses in his work:

My hard drive had become the lowest place on earth. A refinery of waste. Everything that came here turned to garbage. I lived by disposing of that garbage. And after you dispose of garbage for a while, everything starts to look like trash.
       Like his own marriage, those of those involved in the case also have their problems. The narrator makes some connections -- the victim's wife and the customer whose photographs she processed clearly have a complex sort of relationship -- but in the end it doesn't matter: at least as far as the murder goes, the story resolves itself rather differently than any of the clues would have suggested.
       There's a decent noirish tone and feel to much of the story, but it's also a bit hasty; to truly get this material to work, Kim would have had to linger longer over it, allowing it to unfold more slowly. What might have worked in a novel feels like a rather sketchy story.
       Whatever Happened to the Guy in the Elevator works better as a story -- or rather, a comic sketch, as its hapless narrator recounts all the things that go wrong on a day when he has an important presentation to make at work. "This obviously wasn’t my day", he realizes -- long before it's over -- and he's right about that. First, his razor breaks, so he can only shave half his face. Then he finds the elevator in his building is broken, and he has to take the stairs down fifteen floors; along the way he passes the broken elevator in which someone is obviously stuck. Convenient circumstances -- he forgot his wallet, he doesn't have a cell phone -- make it impossible for him to notify anyone about the stuck person, and this leads to further mishaps. When he does eventually get to work, he is the one to get stuck in an elevator.
       Surprisingly (and anticlimactically), his presentation goes reasonably well -- despite him being considerably worse for the considerable wear he has endured -- though he also doesn't manage to convince anyone with his findings and suggestions. Not that it matters. He finally makes it home, after enduring a few more scrapes, but can't discover 'Whatever Happened to the Guy in the Elevator' .....
       Throughout, many of the accidents and their comic potential simply fizzle out, Kim too eager to move ahead to next situation -- even when it's so banal as there being no hot water when the protagonist wants to shower.
       Whatever Happened to the Guy in the Elevator is a reasonably entertaining comic piece, full of pratfalls and awkward and unpleasant situations, but nothing much comes of it -- neither true disaster, nor some great insight -- and too many of the circumstances seem forced (why should he forget his wallet ?) so it isn't entirely satisfying.
       Even together, these two stories make for a very light and small volume, a decent quick read but little more.

- M.A.Orthofer, 28 April 2011

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Photo Shop Murder: Reviews: Other books by Kim Young-ha under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Korean author Kim Young-ha (김영하) was born in 1968.

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© 2011-2019 the complete review

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