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I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 13 to end

I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려

This review discusses the plot so, if you have not already watched these episodes, you may wish to delay reading this.

In this set of episodes of I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) for better or worse, everything is out in the open. Min Joon-Kook (Jung Woong-In) is officially alive, Park Soo-Ha (Lee Jong-Suk) has his memory and his mind-reading abilities back, Jang Hye-Sung (Lee Bo-Young) has decided to stay with Park and just be friends with Cha Kwan-Woo (Yoon Sang-Hyun). Cha has given up the idea of private practice and, after a hiccup, gets his job back as a private defender. So this leaves us with three core areas to work out. Min Joon-Kook was acting out of revenge when he killed Park’s father. It seems the father somehow was responsible for the death of Min Joon-Kook’s wife. Then we have the exact status of Seo Do-Yeon (Lee Da-Hee) whom, it now appears, was the daughter in the original Left Hand Case. And we wait for Min Joon-Kook himself to break cover and attack Park and one/both of the original witnesses.

Jang Hye-Sung (Lee Bo-Young)  and Seo Do-Yeon (Lee Da-Hee)

Jang Hye-Sung (Lee Bo-Young) and Seo Do-Yeon (Lee Da-Hee)

The theme for our age-mismatched couple is one of honesty. In the early days of their relationship. Park relentlessly criticised Jang for her lack of honesty yet, out of fear, he’s being less than honest with her. First, he conceals the fact he’s recovered his memory and abilities. Then he refuses to tell her about Min Joon-Kook’s motive for the original murder. This is somewhat ironic because Jang is busy debating whether to tell Seo Do-Yoon, she was adopted by the judge and his wife. Essentially, it comes down to a simple choice. Some think there are some truths it’s better to keep hidden. Others think it’s always better to tell the truth. In one sense, of course, this is academic to Park who can hear the thoughts of those around him and always knows the truth as the thoughts form in others’ minds. But that doesn’t mean he’s without fear. Obviously, until he provokes thought, he can’t know how the others will react. As a young and somewhat inexperienced man, this leaves him unexpectedly becalmed as his fears get the better of him. Jang feel socially awkward and slightly afraid of Park. Being seen holding his hand or being kissed by him in public is not something she’s wholly comfortable with, but despite the age problem and her lack of privacy, she does “like” him.

Park Soo-Ha (Lee Jong-Suk)

Park Soo-Ha (Lee Jong-Suk)

At this point, it’s appropriate to say how well the series began. Min Joon-Kook as played by Jung Woong-In is a wonderful character and the blend of smiling innocence and pure malevolence lights up the screen. Unfortunately, having been through all the initial excitement, he perforce disappears because he’s supposed to be dead. Even when the authorities realise their error and begin searching for him, he’s rarely on the screen. The plot must therefore find a new focus to maintain interest. It does its best with some of the backstory of both Shin Sang-Duk (Yun Ju-Sang) and Cha, but it fails dismally with the entire subplot surrounding the Left Hand Case. Those who read these reviews will know I hate coincidences. Well, this series goes above and beyond the call of duty in offending my sensibilities. The original father accused of killing his wife was represented by Shin in a trial before Judge Seo Dae-Seok (Jeong Dong-Hwan). After his conviction, his “dead” wife goes to Judge Seo and negotiates for him to adopt their baby. In due course, this daughter grows up to become the woman who will prosecute her natural father for the attempted murder of his dead wife. In the meantime, the wrongly convicted father finds himself sharing a prison cell with Min and tells him the story of the left hand. In due course, Min copies this case to frame Park.

Cha Kwan-Woo (Yoon Sang_Hyun) and Shin Sang-Duk (Yun Ju-Sang)

Cha Kwan-Woo (Yoon Sang_Hyun) and Shin Sang-Duk (Yun Ju-Sang)

Now I don’t know why the screen writers decided to conflate these two individually interesting stories in one series. Considering whether Judge Seo was wrong in failing to call in the police to arrest the dead wife would have been interesting as his “daughter” becomes involved in the case to prosecute her natural father for attempted murder. Although it’s thematically not unlike Prosecutor Princess, there’s a lot of mileage in mixed family situations like this. It’s also an opportunity to comment on the general reluctance in Korea ever to admit any kind of mistake. But to go through a shotgun marriage with a red hot story about Min Joon-Kook’s drive for revenge unbalances the sad emotions of adoptive vs. natural parents. The softer emotions also kill the tension as the deranged killer goes into hiding for whole episodes. So only when the Red Hand Case is more or less over do we come back for the big climax as Min Joon-Kook bursts back on to the screen with quite an elegant plot that’s entirely consistent with this character. We then have the final epilogue episode which spends the entire hour tying up all the loose ends.

Min Joon-Kook (Jung Woong-In)

Min Joon-Kook (Jung Woong-In)

This last set of episodes drags because the series was originally scheduled for a run of sixteen episodes but, when it proved such a success up to episode 10, the television channel insisted on two more. This slows everything down with far too many flashbacks. The trial sequences are padded out and there’s extra character dialogue that fails to add anything substantive to the plot. This shows up particularly in the last episode which works quite well on the stabbing, but is otherwise fairly redundant. So summing up, Jung Woong-In as Min Joon-Kook has been a revelation. This is a terrific performance from start to finish. Even the abandonment of the claimed justification for the murder spree and acceptance of responsibility is handled without sentimentality. He’s taken the first steps to reform.

In part this is due to Cha’s dogged determination to do the right thing. I’m not at all convinced this character is consistently plausible. As an ex-police officer he’s far too idealistic and gullible when he starts off as a defender. Yoon Sang-Hyun’s performance becomes more believable later in the series. As Seo Do-Yeon, Lee Da-Hee has the most difficult character arc which requires her to go from defensive arrogance to a more open approach to the notion of justice and an honest emotional engagement with her natural father. She does what’s written well, but it’s a major personality change. Yun Ju-Sang as Shin is the most interesting of the more minor characters. As a life-long public defender, he’s seen it all, but retained enough humanity to help the young defenders to find their own way. Similarly, Kim Hae-Sook as Eo Choon-Sim, Jang’s mother, is wonderfully salt-of-the-earth, consistent in her love for Jang and completely righteous in her view of the world. As to Jang Hye-Sung played by Lee Bo-Young, she was plagued by injustice in her early years, but blessed with enough self-belief to become a good lawyer when it matters. Her slow transformation into an adult prepared to relate more openly with those around her is done well. Her war with herself about whether she should “love” the young man is wholly convincing. This leaves us with Lee Jong-Suk as Park Soo-Ha. As a telepath, he’s wonderfully self-effacing, never overplaying his ability and smoothing his path through life. In some ways, he’s an arch manipulator who could have been villainous but, with his easy smile and insecurities, he comes over as more vulnerable. His slow loss of innocence makes the series work. So despite the loss of pace in later episodes and the uncomfortable matching of plot elements, I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 is a success.

For the reviews of the other episodes, see:
I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 1 to 4
I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 5 to 8
I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 9 to 12.

I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 9 to 12

I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려

This review discusses the plot so, if you have not already watched these episodes, you may wish to delay reading this.

In this set of episodes in I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013), we see Min Joon-Kook (Jung Woong-In) released and welcomed back into the world by the church and charity workers he’s converted to his cause. Naturally, Park Soo-Ha (Lee Jong-Suk) now sets up for the kill. Ko Sung-Bin (Kim Ga-Eun) realises something bad is about to happen and calls Jang Hye-Sung (Lee Bo-Young). Jang and Cha Kwan-Woo (Yoon Sang_Hyun) then use the tracking device in her smartphone to find Park and, in a tense series of confrontations, Min Joon-Kook is quite badly beaten, Park is stabbed in the shoulder, and Jang is stabbed in the stomach. More importantly, while Jang is recovering in hospital, Cha finally receives the transcripts of the original trial and realises he’s been played for a sucker. He quits the job as Public Defender and goes to help his father run his food stall. Park disappears. Jang comes back to work but a crisis arises almost immediately. A fisherman finds a left hand floating in the dock where he’s somewhat improbably trying to catch something to eat. Fingerprints identify it as Min Joon-Kook’s hand. The police naturally think Park has killed the man and issue a national capture and detain warrant. As time passes, Jang reverts to her original tactics and drives everyone nuts by reciting the same basic script every time she appears in court to represent a defendant, often not even caring enough to change the sex or the details of her plea in mitigation. One year passes and Park is found working on a remote farm. He seems to have lost his memory. Naturally, Cha asks to come back to work to help defend Park. He hopes he can repay both of them for the catastrophe caused by the acquittal and release of Min Joon-Kook.

Min Joon-Kook (Jung Woong-In) showing his malevolent side

Min Joon-Kook (Jung Woong-In) showing his malevolent side

Since episode 10 is played from Park’s point of view, we must accept he has genuinely lost his memory and no longer has the mind reading ability. As soon as Jang is notified of his arrest, she runs to his side and is now back in full defender mode to secure his acquittal. Park promised her he would not kill Min Joon-Kook. She has faith in him. Unfortunately, the prosecution led by Prosecutor Seo Do-Yeon (Lee Da-Hee) has a mass of circumstantial evidence to “prove” Park guilty. So this trial turns into a replay of Shin Sang-Duk (Yun Ju-Sang), the chief public defender’s early failure — appropriately called the Left Hand Case, it was tried before the young Judge Seo Dae-Seok (Jeong Dong-Hwan), i.e. everything in this plot clicks together like clockwork. The trial itself is completely entrancing as different tactics are used by both prosecution and defence to sway the jury. The one element which has been worrying the defence is how the police came to find Park. When they realise the woman who made the call had accepted money from a man to make the call and so collect the reward, they decide to run the ultimate explanation for this case. It all hinges on the identity of the man with whom Min Joon-Kook shared his cell during his ten-year detention. Yes, it was the original losing defendant of the Left Hand Case.

Park Soo-Ha (Lee Jong-Suk)  and Jang Hye-Sung (Lee Bo-Young)

Park Soo-Ha (Lee Jong-Suk) and Jang Hye-Sung (Lee Bo-Young)

So the defence goes all out to sell the idea Min Joon-Kook is still alive and continuing to take revenge on Park. As you would expect, this proves a close-run argument which gets very personal when Seo Do-Yeon tells the jury that the two defence lawyers have personal interests in this case. Cha secured the acquittal of the man accused of murdering Jang’s mother. So Jang makes a controlled but emotional rebuttal in which she accepts the ideas of the presumption of innocence and a defence lawyer going all out to secure an acquittal. That’s what defence lawyers are supposed to do and that’s why they are going all out to get this defendant acquitted. Needless to say, Park is acquitted on a majority verdict and we then play the two sides of the triangle against the third. Cha asks Jang if she forgives him — she does — and whether they can date — she refuses. But Jang also tells Park they are not a couple and he should find a girl his own age — as if that’s ever going to work in a romantic drama like this.

Meanwhile, Cha has been to see Seo Do-Yeon and asked how how the person who claimed the reward for finding Park knew where he was. Frustrated by her loss, she goes to see this woman and is refused any sensible answers. But as she is leaving, we’re allowed the sight of a man wearing a black glove sitting behind the wheel of a truck. Yes, episode 12 shows the whole plot exposed as Park slowly gets his memory back, Cha continues to be a detective as well as a lawyer, and Seo Do-Yeon finally uses her brain and accepts Min Joon-Kook is still alive. However, instead of acting decisively and arresting everyone in sight at the fruit store, Seo Do-Yeon simply sends a summons to the lady who has claimed the reward. Not surprisingly, she’s dead within the day. However, the doughty prosecutor has seen this scenario before, i.e. surveillance camera dysfunctional an hour before the accident, so there’s now a national arrest warrant out for the rest of the missing dead body. Park’s acquittal stands because he didn’t kill no-one, and Cha’s hopes of ever persuading Jang to give up her toy boy have gone up in smoke. There’s also what may be an interesting subplot element building based on the original Left Hand Case, and the drunk Seo Do-Yeon finally tells everyone she was the second witness against Min Joon-Kook who failed to follow Jang into court to give evidence. That clears the air as far as everyone else is concerned but the two women are still in a state of denial. Overall, the series has begun to lose a little steam. We miss Jung Woong-In as Min Joon-Kook and Park’s trial scenes go on a touch too long. Nevertheless, I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 continues to impress.

For the reviews of the other episodes, see:
I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 1 to 4
I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 5 to 8
I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 13 to end.

Marked by Alex Hughes

Marked

Marked by Alex Hughes (Roc, 2014) is the third Mindspace Investigation and the intention is to broaden, if not deepen, our understanding of the society in which the action occurs. In the first two books, we’ve been swept along by the plots with less attention given to the history of this future world and the practical mechanics of its current administration. So our hero works for the DeKalb County PD but we’ve never once had confirmation the political system remains the same after the Tech Wars. I’m not saying a change would have been necessary or even desirable after the wars, but when technology has begun to run out of control and the world has been saved when one section of the population begins to demonstrate “mutant powers”, it would not be surprising to see some changes in government. Then there’s the Tech Wars themselves. We know they happened but, so far, there’s been very little explanation of how they were started nor what led to this current resolution.

All we can say is there’s a lot of technology which very specifically supports and/or targets people with these abilities. For example, there’s screening which blanks the thoughts outside and allows the telepath enough peace to sleep. How such technology came to be developed and who paid for it to be installed in some buildings would be interesting. As it is, we get obscure glimpses of the work currently going on in a research lab which, inter alia, does work for the military. One of the police officers has a high-powered computer interface installed in his brain. Another has body technology to warn him if he’s being surveilled by a telepath. In themselves, these are interesting ideas but without a more formalised context, it’s a slightly incoherent piece of world building. Even after finishing three books, I still don’t understand exactly how Adam came to be given the drug to which he’s now addicted. If it was a part of a clinical trial run by the Guild, surely they should be supporting his efforts to stay clean? Throwing him out of the Guild rather than helping seems more a plot prerequisite than a logical development.

Alex Hughes

Alex Hughes

This time around, we have Adam and Cherabino sent to yet another murder scene. The brutality of the death is surprising and some of the skull is missing. The mindlink between this pair is still holding up and she’s able to act as his anchor in mindspace. More generally, their relationship is still mutual respect rather than acting on their obvious sexual attraction. We get the reason for this reticence later in the book and its logic is undeniable. Anyway, Adam gets a telephone call from his ex-fiancée. Kara’s uncle has been murdered inside Guild headquarters and a major political storm is brewing. She wants Adam to come in as a neutral investigator. Since he’s not aligned with any of the factions, he’s less likely to be biased and, more importantly, not know what results he might be expected to produce.

The story therefore uncomfortably balances an exploration of the new environment and a rerun of the murder in the world of the normals. There is a link between the two murders but it’s very, very indirect to the point of irrelevance. So we get two different results and everything else left to continue into a fourth book. Some aspects of the world inside the Guild are definitely a big step forward. For example, we get a better view of the way in which individual and group telepaths relate to each other. A considerable amount of etiquette and protocols are required to maintain public interfaces and have the capacity to chat with relative privacy. The ethics among telepaths is also explored given that, once people have established a line in their minds, others are expected to respect it and not intrude uninvited. Of course, their system of justice permits an involuntary reading of the accused’s mind. In such circumstances, there’s little need for a trial. Once guilt is established by the “court” appointed telepath, the only question is sentencing.

So the news about this book is both good and bad. Under the “good” heading, we have the same crisp prose and a good plot dynamic to keep us reading. The slightly noirish world of the normals and their culture feels reasonably plausible but, I remain deeply frustrated that the world building has not been set up to allow us a better understanding of both parts of the rump left after the Tech Wars were ended. This leads me into the bad side because the lack of a convincing context for the action is beginning to grate. Essentially, the world of the normals is our contemporary world. The usual stock characters populate the police department, constantly worrying about budgets and meeting targets. They are the usual overworked and underpaid peacekeepers. All the crimes they seem to investigate show very little of the future world or its technology. It’s just murder with a blunt instrument, in these cases a household iron and an axe. This is not a request for infodumps to clarify what happened. It’s a criticism of how all three books have been written. From the outset, characters could have been including odd historical comments in their conversations, or the crimes committed could have required explanation in terms of the history or current society. All we can say is there have been wars and, presumably, a lot of physical damage. Some technology is still allowed (not modern smartphones, just old landline installations). Worse, because we’re following two crimes, there’s little room for setting up an interesting mystery. In both cases, it’s obvious whodunnit. This seriously detracts from the quality of the book, and leaves me thinking Marked is quite good, but nowhere near as good as the first two.

For a review of the other books in the series, see:
Clean
Sharp.

A copy of this book was sent to me for review.

I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 5 to 8

I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려

This review discusses the plot so, if you have not already watched these episodes, you may wish to delay reading this.

In I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) the second case for us to enjoy is the classic involving identical twins. One stabs the owner of a shop during the robbery despite the efforts of the other to stop him. In the West, it doesn’t matter which twin actually held the knife, the law charges both as joint principals. In Korea, the judges have a discretion to invite the prosecutor to choose which one to charge as the principal, the other then being charged as the accessory. Since they both say they were holding the knife and there’s no way to tell them apart despite the video evidence from the store camera, this is a challenge for Prosecutor Seo Do-Yeon (Lee Da-Hee). Park Soo-Ha (Lee Jong-Suk) sits in court and hears both the accused thinking through the plan. The killing was, of course, premeditated, and they are running this defence because they think they can both get acquitted. Once she realizes the plan, Jang Hye-Sung (Lee Bo-Young) decides to co-operate with her enemy prosecutor to get justice for the victim’s wife. This is, of course, highly unethical and could get her struck off but there’s no obvious evidence of collusion in court so it’s difficult for Shin Sang-Duk (Yun Ju-Sang), the senior public defender, to do anything.

Shin Sang-Duk (Yun Ju-Sang) exchanges opinions with  Jang Hye-Sung (Lee Bo-Young) as Park Soo-Ha (Lee Jong-Suk) listens in

Shin Sang-Duk (Yun Ju-Sang) exchanges opinions with Jang Hye-Sung (Lee Bo-Young) as Park Soo-Ha (Lee Jong-Suk) listens in

Min Joon-Kook (Jung Woong-In) identifies Eo Choon-Sim (Kim Hae-Sook) as his victim’s mother and gets a job in her food shop. He’s completely cold-hearted and despite Eo Choon-Sim’s kindness, determines to kill her. Meanwhile Park Soo-Ha finds a private inquiry agent prepared to use smartphone technology to track down Min Joon-Kook. He does so but it’s too late to prevent the death of Eo Choon-Sim. There’s further development on the crime scene with Jang Hye-Sung allocated a case involving an elderly, slightly deaf man who’s accused of stealing free newspapers. Because the defendant insults Jang, the case is transferred to Cha Kwan-Woo (Yoon Sang_Hyun) who works to so impress the old guy he will see the benefit of Public Defenders and apologise to Jang. In the end, Park yet again acts as Jang’s conscience and persuades her to save the old man. The mechanism ultimately depends on Park’s ability to read minds and produces the right result for the old man but embarrasses Jang because Cha gives her a hug of thanks in open court and later asks her for a date.

Min Joon-Kook (Jung Woong-In) tells Cha Kwan-Woo (Yoon Sang_Hyun) how he failed to rescue his victim

Min Joon-Kook (Jung Woong-In) tells Cha Kwan-Woo (Yoon Sang_Hyun) how he failed to rescue his victim

At this point, the series moves into the darker territory we’ve been expecting as Min Joon-Kook first gently inserts himself into the shop and the life of Eo Choon-Sim, extracting every last piece of gossip and information he can about Jang. One feature of this is Eo’s continuing attempts to foster a relationship between Jang and Cha. This leads to the ultimately cruel way of manipulating the murder. He disables the camera outside the food shop and, when night falls, begins the slow process of killing Eo. During this, Jang telephones. It may sound corny to write it here, but this conversation between mother and daughter, and the subsequent exchange of view with Min Joon-Kook is very powerful. Anyway, everything is staged as an accident in a fire. He staggers out of the shop with the dead body over his shoulder, sustaining non-fatal burns on the way. Naturally, he asks for Cha to represent him. The way in which he manipulates Cha is delightfully devious and, of course, Cha secures an acquittal. Interestingly, Seo Do-Yeon breaks cover and, with the connivance of Judge Seo Dae-Seok (Jeong Dong-Hwan), they try to fix the trial. Unfortunately, Cha is equal to the task. This leaves Seo Do-Yeon exposed as having been the other witness to the original murder. More importantly, Cha finally receives the transcripts of the original trial and realises he’s been played for a sucker. He quits the job as Public Defender and goes to help his father run his food stall. This leaves Jang and Park in the direct firing line. So as the date of Min Joon-Kook’s release approaches, Park sets in motion a plan to kill Min Joon-Kook. This leaves everything set up with Jang apparently left on her own and the killer on the loose coming to get her.

Taking one step back, this is a wonderful series. Given the primary character interaction is between Jang and Park, we have the irony he’s the young and experienced man who can hear both what she says and thinks, while nominally she’s the worldly experienced woman who can only hear his voice. Yet despite her growing up with high ideals about justice, she’s actually lost the spark and it’s only when Park talks with her that she’s reminded what made her want to become a lawyer in the first place. She’s a better person than she thinks she is, and it takes the naive youngster’s criticism and help to force her to see something of the truth about herself. Lee Bo-Young’s performance as Jang Hye-Sung is particularly pleasing as we veer arbitrarily between the self-absorbed kid going through the motions as a lawyer and the intelligent woman who can produce a fine legal argument if she puts her mind to it and gains a little more self-confidence.

For the reviews of the other episodes, see:
I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 1 to 4
I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 9 to 12
I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 13 to end.

I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 1 to 4

I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려

This review discusses the plot so, if you have not already watched these episodes, you may wish to delay reading this.

In I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) Jang Hye-Sung (Lee Bo-Young) is an underperforming young lawyer who can’t find work with a major firm so she applies for a job as a public defender. To get the job, she hypnotises the interview panel led by Kim Kong-Sook (Kim Kwang-Kyu) with an allegedly true story from her youth. Ten years earlier, she claims she was expelled from her school after being wrongly accused by Seo Do-Yeon (Lee Da-Hee), the daughter of Judge Seo Dae-Seok (Jeong Dong-Hwan). This also led to Eo Choon-Sim (Kim Hae-Sook) being fired from her job as the judge’s housekeeper. When there’s a confrontation between the two girls, they witness what first seems to be an accident but then turns into murder. Min Joon-Kook (Jung Woong-In) kills the driver and is about to kill the young nin-year-old boy Park Soo-Ha (Lee Jong-Suk) when Jang Hye-Sung takes a picture of him. The girls run away but, later, Jang Hye-Sung appears in court and gives evidence sufficient to send the driver to jail for ten years. Seo Do-Yeon was also supposed to give evidence, but she lost her nerve and did not go into the courtroom.

Eo Choon-Sim (Kim Hae-Sook)  and Jang Hye-Sung

Eo Choon-Sim (Kim Hae-Sook) and Jang Hye-Sung

On the day of the interview, Jang Hye-Sung meets Cha Kwan-Woo (Yoon Sang_Hyun). He started off as a policeman but has now qualified as a lawyer. Needless to say, they both get jobs. When a picture of Jang Hye-Sung appears in the newspaper, this reinforces Min Joon-Kook’s desire for revenge, and also shows Park Soo-Ha what his savior looks like. This may sound standard fare, but it’s made very entertaining because the now grown-up Park Soo-Ha is telepathic (probably brought on by the head injury in the crash when his father was killed). There’s a delightful sequence of him interrupting a school prank on a new girl joining their class. Anyway, to complete the set-up, Jang Hye-Sung’s first case is against Ko Sung-Bin (Kim Ga-Eun) one of the girls in Park Soo-Ha’s school.

There are strong parallels between this accusation and the one faced by our heroine at about the same age. Unfortunately, there’s no strong evidence the girl is innocent and our heroine takes the standard line which is strongly to advise her to plead guilty. However when Park Soo-Ha convinces our heroine not only that he can read thoughts, but also that his friend is innocent, she’s tempted to fight the case. What tips the balance is the appearance of Seo Do-Yeon as the prosecutor. The hostility between them crackles off the screen so battle is joined on what appears to be a perfectly circumstantial case. In this and the majority of other cases in this series, the panel of three judges is led by Kim Kong-Sook who heard the intial story about the two girls and the failure of one to give evidence against the killer. Unfortunately, when the “victim” is called to give evidence, she says she was pushed by the defendant. This demonstrates the rule a good lawyer never agrees to an unlisted witness unless she’s absolutely sure what the witness will say. It does no good that Park Soo-Ha knows the girl is lying. He can’t take the stand to prove he can hear the thoughts of those around him. Without evidence, there can be no rebuttal of the victim’s testimony.

Park Soo-Ha (Lee Jong-Suk) and Jang Hye-Sung (Lee Bo-Young)

Park Soo-Ha (Lee Jong-Suk) and Jang Hye-Sung (Lee Bo-Young)

This leads to a rather pleasing meeting between the two girls where the accused admits she was jealous of the younger girl’s success and apologises for bullying her. However, rather than allow the victim to change her testimony, Seo Do-Yeon threatens to prosecute for perjury. The first evidence was given under oath. If the victim recants, she’s admitting to lying under oath. Fortunately the senior defence lawyer is watching from the public seats and texts the authority for rebutting the threat. After the case is dismissed, Park Soo-Ha accuses Seo Do-Yeon of putting the desire to win above the desire to see justice done. The subtext is the competition between the two women also influenced the threat to invoke perjury even though the prosecutor should have known (probably did know) she had no grounds for doing so.

Cha Kwan-Woo (Yoon Sang_Hyun)

Cha Kwan-Woo (Yoon Sang_Hyun)

Meanwhile Min Joon-Kook has established himself as the model released prisoner. He’s volunteering at local church and charitable outlets to show he’s sincerely repented his past wrongdoings. And then he begins psychological warfare against Jang Hye-Sung, sending her enigmatic text messages. When she realises the messages are not from either Park Soo-Ha or Cha Kwan-Woo, she calls the number and is frightened when the phone rings in her apartment. The police are, of course, deeply sceptical that there’s anything to worry about. Even when they realise the relationship between the three, they are satisfied by the front presented by Min Joon-Kook, and take no action. This leads Park Soo-Ha to track down and attack him. Finally realising who Park Soo-Ha is (it was all ten years ago, after all), Jang Hye-Sung agrees to take legal responsibility for Park and they begin a more honest basis for their friendship. The problem now is how to get evidence of Min Joon-Kook’s real intentions.

So this gives us the basic relationship mess. For all her current faults, Park Soo-Ha and Cha Kwan-Woo both like Jang Hye-Sung. Obviously there’s a significant age gap between Jang and Park but that’s not stopping Park from jealousy and some level of despondency when he sees what might be a more natural fit between Jang and Cha. There’s also a love interest for Park from Ko Sung-Bin. the girl in his class at school. This romance is embedded in a case involving a vicious murderer who killed ten years ago and promised revenge when he was released. Except the whole series also has terrific moments of humour. The script and the quality of the acting sells laughter at unexpected moments. In short, this is a terrific opening set of episodes.

For reviews of the other episodes, see:
I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 5 to 8
I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 9 to 12
I Can Hear Your Voice or Neoui Moksoriga Deulleo or 너의 목소리가 들려 (2013) episodes 13 to end.

Sharp by Alex Hughes

Sharp md

Well here we go with the second in the novel series which began with Clean and now continues with Sharp by Alex Hughes A Mindspace Investigation Novel (Roc, 2013) although it seems Roc sneaked out an ebook novella called Payoff in between. The headline to this review is that this second novel is easily as good, if not better than, the first. However, if you haven’t read the first, you might find this takes a little getting into. That said, this novel avoids the bear pit waiting for new authors who start a series. Too often, we get the 1960’s pop record phenomenon. So for example, “Shake It Up, Baby” was recorded by the Top Notes and the The Isley Brothers. It then became “Twist and Shout” as recorded by the Beatles, Brian Poole and the Tremeloes, The Searchers, and so on. In other words, once you hit the “winning formula” you don’t change nothing too much. The bean-counters convince the artists/authors that what worked the first time will likely work the second time (and even the third) before the buying public gets tired of hearing/reading the same thing over and over again. That’s why so many series stop after three books. There just isn’t enough development in the underlying ideas to keep the continuing work fresh and interesting. Potentially loyal fans lose faith and stop buying. The authors’ careers often never recover. Going back to earlier times, it used to be easier because most authors wrote standalones or only continued into a series when they had something interesting to say. Today the norm is for publishers to buy series and this stresses the authors’ creativity. Fortunately, Alex Hughes has managed to move us forward enough to keep everyone happy.

Alex Hughes keeps up the standard in her second novel

Alex Hughes keeps up the standard in her second novel

Adam, our damaged, level-eight, independent telepath continues to be employed full-time by this future world police department. Ostensibly he’s only employed as an interrogator but, when the call comes, he goes out into the field to evaluate crime scenes and support the detectives in their work. Because he can access the Mindspace, he can often understand the emotional context for the crimes. Unfortunately, his Abilities have been damaged and this hampers his use of telepathy and access to Mindspace. Because he’s in line for redundancy in a major cost-cutting exercise, he’s hiding the extent of his injuries. He’s also struggling with his addiction to Satin while being kept at arm’s length by Homicide Detective Isabella Cherabino who’s still angry at him for creating a link to her mind. Within the Police Department, Lieutenant Paulsen seems to be his only supporter/protector. With his increasing sense of isolation, it falls to Swartz, his Narcotics Anonymous sponsor, to keep him clean. Without this support, he would undoubtedly have relapsed and probably died on the streets.

We start off with two separate investigations. There seems to be a rash of hijackings with high-tech equipment being stolen. Then, taking him back in time, one of his students turns up murdered. This forces him to contact the Telepath Guild which, in turn, triggers an investigation. His exploits as described in the first novel have also attracted the attention of the FBI which begins an independent investigation. All this stress is not good for our weakened hero. Unfortunately, Swartz chooses this moment to have a major heart attack and may not be going to live too long. This proves the trigger for serious emotional problems for our hero but, and this represents a very nice irony, it also proves his ultimate salvation.

If there is a problem with these two books, it’s that we’ve been pitched in medias res. Of course this is not inherently problematic — book series have to start somewhere — but, so far, we’ve only seen the recovering addict side of our hero’s personality. Before the catastrophe deriving from his addiction to Satin, he seems to have led a relatively ordinary life, insofar as the life of a strong telepath can ever be considered ordinary. During this early period, he inspired what has proved the long-term loyalty, if not the love, of Kara. Subsequently he’s contrived to form an emotional bond with Cherabino which, given the present state of his personality, is somewhat surprising. I know authors don’t like prequels very much, but I think there’s a case for showing us what he was like before and explaining exactly what led to him being exposed to Satin. In this book, we’ve got a little more detail of why he’s carrying a burden of guilt but there’s still so much unexplained. Some detailed flashbacks or something freestanding would help us readers have a better sense of who this man is and why so many people think he’s worth saving.

Put all this together and Sharp proves a very enjoyable read. It’s not trying to do too much. It simply delivers a very good science fiction police procedural in an evolving context. Indeed, with different calls on his loyalties now established and new emotional vulnerabilities exposed, it’s all very nicely set up for the next in the series.

For a review of the first in the series, see Clean.

A copy of this book was sent to me for review.

Clean by Alex Hughes

December 24, 2012 1 comment

Clean by Alex Hughes

I suppose I must classify myself as having been an addict. I grew up at a time when more or less everyone smoked so, being one of the herd, I followed. Looking back, this was less than rational. I was born an asthmatic and was plagued by a wide range of allergies. To have begun smoking was a tragic error. With breathing an increasing challenge, I then recognised the only approach to quitting is abstinence. It’s the psychology of the process. If you are serious, you give it up and never go back. If you are less than serious, you switch your dependence to something supposedly less dangerous. Why? Because perpetuating addictive behaviour means you don’t want to make a full recovery. As part of the process of getting clean from the more dangerous drugs, many in the counselling industry advocate different versions of the 12 Step Programs. Obviously you should not try to beat addiction alone so regular meetings with other addicts reinforce the commitment to stay clean. It’s helpful to know others are struggling with the same problems and holding out. This package of measures may include finding a “higher power” This is often taken to mean you should pray to God, but prayer and reading the Bible are not actually necessary so long as you develop the self-discipline to avoid relapse. Feeling you have someone stronger in your corner fighting for you helps. Why are we starting in this way?

As the title, Clean by the gender-neutral Alex Hughes A Mindspace Investigation Novel (Roc, 2012), suggests, our nameless Level 8 telepath with precognitive skills is a recovering Satin addict. As a first-person narrative, we’re therefore given a ringside seat as our “hero” struggles not to relapse (again). In the general run of genre classifications, this makes the book a dystopian, noirish, urban fantasy, thriller, science fiction police procedural story about identity and redemption (assuming he can stay clean, of course). Ah, you noticed the labelling confusion. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I despair of the publisher/retailer conspiracy to categorise books. Although I concede it’s useful to know which part of a big store to visit to find books I’m likely to want to buy, it’s not constructive to label with increasing particularity. This forces authors to write to a predetermined formula so their book fit, i.e. it stifles creativity. For what it’s worth, I approve of books like this which conflate elements into the whole as needed to build a world in which the action is to take place.

Alex Hughes with a promising first novel

Alex Hughes with a promising first novel

So we have a telepath who works for the police force. There’s a serial killer on the loose so our hero and Homicide Detective Isabella Cherabino are off on the trail. The writing style is reasonably hardboiled or noir, but we’re set in a future following Tech Wars in which sentient technology tried to take over the world. Humanity was saved by those with Abilities and there are serious consequences including the abandonment of many types of technology. This has left the survivors in a very rundown city environment in which many aspects of life are unpleasant. To relieve the pervasive dystopian gloom, there are elements of romance between our hero and the Detective. Finally, the general level of threat and the need to fight to survive allows us to consider this a thriller. Thematically, if our hero stays clean, he may be considered redeemed and this will say something important about him as a person.

As a not wholly irrelevant aside, I wonder whether a part of the author’s intention is actually Edenic. Although it would be literally absurd to consider a dystopian environment anything like the Garden of Eden, we have a man who is struggling not to eat the apple. I also note that one of the 12 Steps is establishing a relationship with a higher power. In the Biblical sense, we distinguish between two types of covenant with God. Some are unconditional, i.e. God holds to His side of the bargain no matter what we do. Others, as in the Garden of Eden, are conditional, i.e. to avoid the loss of God’s bounty, Adam and Eve had to obey the covenant about the apple. What was the penalty for breaching this covenant? Instead of being able to live free off the land, Adam and Eve would have to work hard as farmers to grow their own food. Now return to one of the unconditional covenants. If you are redeemed from sin, you are allowed into Heaven. By hard work, you earn the ultimate reward.

So the essential questions are what Satin is, how and why our hero was first exposed to it, and whether he has sufficient strength to avoid relapse. In the midst of it all, there’s a serial murder case to crack and considerable personal danger to overcome. I find Clean very interesting. Although this may sound as if I’m damning the book with faint praise, this is not intended as a negative review. One reads books for many reasons and while this may not be the best science fiction book I’ve read this year and it’s certainly not the best noir thriller I’ve read, it does have a genuine willingness to explore the city and the implications of the Tech War that proved so devastating. The interaction between the Guild responsible for those with Ability and the police is intriguing. And the underlying motivation of those involved is revealed in a distinctly pleasing way. Clean is worth reading. For the record, the second book in the series is titled Sharp is due around Spring 2013 and I shall look out for it.

For a review of the second in the series, see Sharp.

A copy of this book was sent to me for review.