Harper Collins Canada sent me an ARC of The Only Child by Mi-Ae Seo to read and review. The blurb certainly intrigued me and I opened the novel with interest.
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
An eerie and absorbing novel following a criminal psychologist who has discovered shocking and possibly dangerous connections between a serial killer and her stepdaughter.
Criminal psychologist Seonkyeong receives an unexpected call one day. Yi Byeongdo, a serial killer whose gruesome murders shook the world, wants to be interviewed. Yi Byeongdo, who has refused to speak to anyone until now, asks specifically for her. Seonkyeong agrees out of curiosity.
That same day Hayeong, her husband’s eleven-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, shows up at their door after her grandparents, with whom she lived after her mother passed away, die in a sudden fire. Seonkyeong wants her to feel at home, but is gradually unnerved as the young girl says very little and acts strangely.
At work and at home, Seonkyeong starts to unravel the pasts of the two new arrivals in her life and begins to see startling similarities. Hayeong looks at her the same way Yi Byeongdo does when he recounts the abuse he experienced as a child; Hayeong’s serene expression masks a temper that she can’t control. Plus, the story she tells about her grandparents’ death, and her mother’s before that, deeply troubles Seonkyeong. So much so that Yi Byeongdo picks up on it and starts giving her advice.
The Only Child has been translated from the original Korean and it may be for this reason that the writing at times seemed to be a bit pedantic. The author’s style did not grab me and it was my curiosity to see how the story ended that carried me through to the last page.
The novel shows an interesting comparison between the beginning processes of a serial killer and the end of a serial killer’s killing spree when he is caught and imprisoned. This comparison is shown through the two characters: a young girl named Hayeong and Yi Byeongdo, a killer who has been captured and imprisoned. The reader is slowly introduced to the comparison and asked to make a judgement on the possibilities of what creates a serial killer. In addition to the comparison, the reader is shown the life of Yi Byeongdo and the progression which led him to the prison. His experience is different to that of Hayeong and yet similar results are predicted.
The story is told in multiple points of view. Because of the Korean names, it took me some time to figure out who was whom especially as the time frame changes as well with every chapter. However once I figured out who the characters were, I was able to switch between the characters and time frames easily.
The beginning of the novel was a bit slow for me, though the pace did pick up halfway through. I did not enjoy the writing style the author used for this novel and I was a little disappointed with the way the story was presented. I did, though, like the unexpected twist at the end of the story.
I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars
© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020
(This novel was the 17th novel in my book pledge for 2020)