In 1994, This is MiAe wrote her first novel, “30 Ways to Kill Your Husband”. This was a huge success and she won the Korean Polar Prize in 2009 with her novel “The Garden of a Doll”. Some of her books have been adapted for film and she also works as a screenwriter for television. One of her most famous works, “The Only Daughter” is the first part of a horror trilogy that you should read without further ado! The film rights have been sold to Carnival Films!

Synopsis: “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, specifically asks for her. SeonKyeong agrees out of curiosity. That same day, HaYeong, her husband’s eleven-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, shows up on her doorstep after her grandparents, with whom she lived after her mother passed away, died in a sudden fire. SeonKyeong wants to She feels right at home, but gradually becomes nervous when the young woman speaks very little and acts strangely.At work and at home, SeonKyeong begins to unravel the past of the two newcomers in her life and begins to see surprising similarities. HaYeong looks at her the same way Yi ByeongDo does when recounting the abuse he suffered as a child, HaYeong’s serene expression masks a temper she can’t control. The story she tells about the death of her grandparents and her motto before that, deeply worries SeonKyeong. So much so that Yi ByeongDo notices and starts giving her advice.” – Amazon

Let’s learn more about Seo MiAe’s brilliant romance!

“The Only Son” (2020)

Best Kpopmap K-Lit: "the only child"a horrible thriller to understand the criminologist

Amazon / BJZ

book review

Author: This is MiAe

Editor: Ecco

Length: 283 pages


One of the first peculiarities of this book is the change of point of view throughout the chapters. Although the adopted narrative is predominantly external, it sometimes shifts to an internal or even omniscient narrative. The first chapter thus begins in the omniscient narration, where we accompany two men, called Lee Sang-Uk It is Your DongSik. The first works in the fire and rescue service, being responsible for inspecting places where fires have occurred, while the second is an inspector for the scientific police. The book starts at a specific time: June 17th at 3:37 am, when a fire is declared in the Eungam district. It’s the sixth fire of its kind in weeks, but the fire quickly turns into a crime scene when two bodies are discovered. Strange thing? While the two victims are charred on their bed, the blanket that covers them is not from the inside…

A child is then rescued from the flames, holding a teddy bear in his arms and asking to see his father, Yun JaeSeong, who is believed to be working at an unnamed hospital. Some time later, he retrieves his daughter, and the inspectors tell him that his daughter’s grandparents tragically died in the fire. This is how this first chapter ends, which suggests a criminal investigation for the rest of the novel, in order to find the person at the origin of these fires. But is this really the case?

Chapter two is in internal narration, and begins with the curious phrase “What is your earliest memory?“. Although we do not know the identity of the narrator, some clues are scattered here and there, mainly with regard to his personality. Indeed, by asking this question to each person he meets, the subject of this chapter can identify his interlocutor, because an impactful memory like the first one we have can later influence our social and social development, or even influence our personality and our destiny. We also learn that the subject’s mother hated him even before he was born, developing an irrational fear of him in his presence and trying to kill him. In fact, her first memory is of a pillow in her face, when her mother tried to suffocate her. However, it is with the words “I love you, mother” that this mysterious chapter ends.

The third chapter reveals a new character, the main character of this novel: SeonKyeong. A criminal psychology professor explains to her students that it is difficult to determine whether or not a child will become a serial killer. However, some trends can be highlighted, such as MacDonald’s triad: nocturnal enuresis, pyromania and animal cruelty. If a child meets these three characteristics, it could be a sign of psychosis, although 20th century scientists have investigated the issue of a malformation in the brain or the chaotic family environment during childhood. For SeonKyeong, what moves a killer is above all curiosity, the curiosity to know what happens in the human body, what the victims think, or what happens after death. Therefore, it is essential to rely more on crime scenes because a killer tends to exaggerate his words to get noticed.

We meet our mysterious character, who compares his mind to a room locked with padlocks so as not to let out the painful memories it contains. The subject of this chapter tells how, when he was just 11 years old, he ran away from his mother’s house, secretly getting into a truck. Bad luck, a traffic accident kills the truck driver and, not by chance, the character loses his memory. He was then taken in by the driver’s family for six years, who gave him a home and love until one day he heard a song that plunged him back into his childhood.

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The Beatles‘ ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ is our antagonist’s key song. At the slightest hearing, he thinks of his mother and the years of torture she inflicted on him without the slightest remorse. However, upon hearing it again after six years of silence, he decides to return home in order to confront his mother and his dark demons. But it’s time to follow the life of SeonKyeong, whose daily life is turned upside down when a serial killer named Lee ByeongDo wants to talk to her, something he has never done with anyone until now. The police alert her: ByeongDo is an unshakable beast, who likes to provoke the population and is proud of the media coverage he receives for his murders. He is said to have murdered thirteen women in cold blood.

Contrary to all expectations, SeonKyeong decides to meet ByeongDo in order to find out more about the killer, not least because he can reveal crucial clues in his investigations, such as other victims for example. ByeongDo being on death row, he has nothing left to lose, so why ask for a showdown with SeonKyeong he doesn’t even know? And it is with surprise that ByeongDo asks him from their first meeting “what is your first memory?” It all makes sense then, the mysterious character is ByeongDo, who told us about his chaotic childhood up until then, and even his mother’s murder… In fact, after returning home to face her, he didn’t knew how to contain himself and murdered her.

Hesitant, Seon Kyeong tells her about the pair of red shoes his mother gave him as his first souvenir. ByeongDo has doubts but decides to believe her. He wants to tell her about his mother and starts humming the Beatles song. He tells her that he likes to sing as soon as he kills, before abruptly ending their encounter, asking her to come back in two days with an apple. Still upset about the encounter, Seon Kyeong returns home to find a child in her living room. Looking lost, she holds a teddy bear in her arms.

If this teddy bear reminds you of anything, you’re right. This little girl is the one who lost her grandparents in the first chapter’s arson, and her father is none other than SeonKyeong’s husband! The pieces of the puzzle fall into place little by little without our main character noticing. This is the first time SeonKyeong has met HaYeong, and it is with pain and apprehension that JaeSeong, her husband, tells her that they both need to raise HaYeong, as she has no one else in her family, her mother died a year earlier. .

Despite the young woman’s astonishment at this situation, which she could not have foreseen, she also remembers having lost her mother at the age of 15, and immediately feels empathy for the child, whom she agrees to take care of. We also learn that SeonKyeong and JaeSeong met at the hospital where the latter worked when SeonKyeong was accompanying his father, who was suffering from a cerebral hemorrhage. But the relationship between SeonKyeong and HaYeong promises to be very difficult.

In the presence of her father, the young woman is affectionate and playful, like a child her age (she is eleven years old), but alone with the criminologist, she turns into a little devil, screaming, threatening and even violent. The day after SeonKyeong washed his teddy bear, an enraged HaYeong took a pair of scissors and cut the poor teddy bear into pieces. Also at school, HaYeong terrorizes her classmates when she is caught about to disembowel a wild cat, cutting off another child’s hand with a meat cleaver. As time goes by, HaYeong looks like ByeongDo, getting stronger and more confident.

On the contrary, ByeongDo is weakening and falling apart. He dives into the depths of his memory in the presence of Seon Kyeong, whom he considers to be the only one who can help him and make him change to become a new man. He confides in her and exposes himself, but this only worsens his psychological state which quickly reverberates in his physical state. He loses weight at breakneck speed, his hallucinations increase, and he truly descends into madness. While SeonKyeong develops fear for the little girl, she also develops affection for the serial killer. The two look alike, but it’s hard for the criminologist to separate things as she makes her way through interviews and her new life as a mother…

If you want to know more about this curious relationship between our three characters, don’t wait any longer and read this novel! Who from SeonKyeong, ByeongDo or even HaYeong will upset him the most? Divided into five parts, we’ve only focused on the first two so you can discover all the secrets of this novel on your own!

Thrillers are a very particular style that every day attracts more fans of the genre, in particular thanks to the television series that shake the codes like the recent success on Netflix of the series “DAHMER“. Also, the apple that ByeongDo particularly likes might remind us of the manga “Death Observation“. On the Korean side, there are also many recent dramas oriented towards justice, miscellaneous acts and murder, like the most recent one with “Somebody” (2022). Let us know in the comment below what you think about this novel and the thriller genre !

Kpopmap Rating: 8/10

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