The Only Child by Seo Mi-ae

The Only Child, Book 1

Synopsis : 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.

Written with exquisite precision and persistent creepiness, The Only Child is psychological suspense at its very best.

Review : This is the first Korean thriller book I read. And for a first time, I found it was a pretty good book. So I rated it 4 out of 5.

Why 4 ? Well, firstly because even though I liked it, it was predictable. There were clues at every page that were making us guess the ending. So I wasn’t surprised by the outcome.

Secondly the female protagonist was quite disappointing. She often mentions Clarisse Starling from The Silence of the Lambs but she is far from being like her. She totally lacked common sense and made stupid decisions. In short, typical of the protagonists you see in some dark thrillers or horror stories/movies. But she was not the only one. It was the same for the serial killer in jail. He was not as impressive as Hannibal Lecter ! But aside that, it was interesting. I liked the smart police officer and his colleague but unfortunately we don’t get to see them often, only in the first chapter and towards the end.

In this book, distinctions are made between people with antisocial personality disorder. Everything is clear and easy to understand. There are many references to the movie The Silence of the Lambs of course but also to Yoo Young Chul (ie. The infamous South Korean serial killer, the one from the Netflix documentary The Raincoat Killer : Chasing a Predator in Korea).

About the writing style : I really apreciated the fluidness of this book. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a K-drama addict (especially crime dramas and thrillers and somehow got used to it) but everything seemed familiar to me and the author’s writing is clear and pretty simple. It was an easy read and I enjoyed it mainly for that.

What about the ending ? Predictable like I said earlier but satisfying. I know this book does have a sequel but i don’t feel the urge to read it right away. That said, I will try to read it as soon as I can. 😁

In conclusion: This is a very good introduction to the world of K-thrillers. And I’ll probably read more books like this in the future.

10 thoughts on “The Only Child by Seo Mi-ae

    • Thank you Sophia Rose! 😀 Yes, I admit she was a little bit frustrating. I expected better from a criminal psychologist! Thanksfully the focus is not only on her so in the end it was not the thriller of the year but it was still entertaining.

    • Thank you for reading my review! Sure, it’s not the best one but it was still gripping. I don’t know why. It’s probably the author’s writing style : it was so easy to read that it made the whole thing enjoyable. I have a friend who has read it too in another language and he had the same thought lol. 😀

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