Kim Oh 1: REAL DANGEROUS GIRL (The Kim Oh Thrillers) by K. W. Jeter (2011, Editions Herodiade)
K.W. Jeter is a writer I have been following for the past 25 years.His books are now available in Kindle editions. I grabbed his Mantis horror novel back in 1987 based on a positive review. I liked it so much I went in search of his other novels. Dr. Adder (1984) (one of the most twisted dystopian SF novels ever written) I found quickly. Around 1990, I found myself working in Wichita, KS, which had the distinction of having some of the best paperback stores known to humanity. I was able to find the rest of his novels and share them with co-workers. We formed an informal Jeter appreciation society, known as the “The Glass Adders”. I still have the copy of Soul Eater (1983) he autographed and sent to us.
Jeter has a way with words which stays with the reader. Years after reading his Dark Seeker (1987) horror novel, a snide remark about college grads who think they are entitled to make decisions because of the letters after their last names comes quickly to mind. Such as anytime someone rolls out their advanced degree in an argument. Or his quick put-down of high school jocks as “footballers” from The Night Man (1989).
With the Kim Oh series, Jeter has moved into a new territory: the thriller. E-books are perfect for what he is accomplishing. However, he’s also offering them in print-on-demand form for those who like their reading material made out of paper. Narrated by the main character, it shows Jeter strengths as a writer he can tell the story from a young woman’s point of view.
Kim Oh is a small Korean American girl working as a book-keeper for a shady company on the California coast. She’s also taking care of her invalid younger brother. Both of them live in a crappy apartment in a crappy neighborhood. We are never told much about Kim’s background, other than her grandparents immigrated to the USA in the distant past. She and her brother have been tossed around all their lives to various foster homes. Kim learned basic accounting from one of her foster parents who owned a small store. You never do get an exact age on her, but she appears to be 19 years-old. And weighs all of 100 pounds.
Kim looses her job one day when her disgusting boss decides to “go legit”. He hires a Harvard MBA for the CFO job she always assumed would be hers. She flips out and lunges at the company owner, McIntyre, but gets tossed out to the curb by one of his thugs. Now she has no job and no future. And her brother depends on her.
At the same time in the story line, we are introduced to Cole, a professional hitman. He works for Kim Oh’s boss as a freelancer, carrying out specific jobs to eliminate specific people. Part of the opening sections of the book detail his complicated assassination of a rival businessman. The sequence is far more complex than any from a John Woo film. But Cole soon learns his usefulness is over to the boss man when he’s set-up on a routine enforcement job.
Eventually, Kim meets up with the bed-ridden Cole. She wants revenge for what’s been done to her and he sees a worthy student. There’s plenty of bickering back and forth between the two, but Kim shows him she has what’s needed . And Cole feels justified as he’d noticed it in her all along.
One concept I’ve noticed in Jeter’s books is infernal talent. For better or worse, some people seem to be cut out for work most of us would find detestable. It’s a major theme in both his Dark Seeker and Dr. Adder novels.
Kim Oh 1 ends suddenly. A little too suddenly for my tastes. I can’t help but wonder if the series was originally part of one, long novel. Be as that may, I am hooked on these books and have already bought the second one.