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An eerie and absorbing novel following a criminal psychologist who has discovered shocking and possibly dangerous connections between a serial killer and her stepdaughter. The book to read for fans of the movie Parasite.
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.
Written with exquisite precision and persistent creepiness, The Only Child is psychological suspense at its very best.
Korean author Seo makes her U.S. debut with a creepy psychological thriller. Forensic psychologist Seonkyeong, nicknamed Clarice for the Silence of the Lambs character by the Seoul college students in her criminal psych course, scores a potentially career-making coup when condemned serial killer Yi Byeongdo, who has previously rebuffed all interview requests, announces he wants to talk to her. But she finds herself hard-pressed to focus on the looming challenge when her personal life implodes: 11-year-old Hayeong, her physician husband's daughter from a previous marriage, suddenly lands on their doorstep after the grandparents raising her die in a suspicious fire. And it quickly becomes evident to Seonkyeong, if not her workaholic spouse, that the girl appears to have issues including some alarming similarities in her behavior to Yi Byeongdo. Seo stealthily spins an ever-tightening narrative web setting up a doubly shocking climax. Though the hair-raising plot leans too heavily on contrivance and coincidence, it's a measure of Seo's skill that she manages to find flashes of humanity in a ruthless murderer. Fans of Nexflix's Mindhunter should feel right at home.