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.

Captive in the Dark by C.J. Roberts

The Dark Duet, Book 1

Synopsis: Caleb is a man with a singular interest in revenge. Kidnapped as a young boy and sold into slavery by a power-hungry mobster, he has thought of nothing but vengeance. For twelve years he has immersed himself in the world of pleasure slaves searching for the one man he holds ultimately responsible. Finally, the architect of his suffering has emerged with a new identity, but not a new nature. If Caleb is to get close enough to strike, he must become the very thing he abhors and kidnap a beautiful girl to train her to be all that he once was.

Eighteen-year-old Olivia Ruiz has just woken up in a strange place. Blindfolded and bound, there is only a calm male voice to welcome her. His name is Caleb, though he demands to be called Master. Olivia is young, beautiful, naïve and willful to a fault. She has a dark sensuality that cannot be hidden or denied, though she tries to accomplish both. Although she is frightened by the strong, sadistic, and arrogant man who holds her prisoner, what keeps Olivia awake in the dark is her unwelcome attraction to him.

WARNING: This book contains very disturbing situations, dubious consent, strong language, and graphic violence.

Review: I do not usually read this kind of books that deals with very sensitive topics such as mistreatment of women, sexual slavery etc. That is really not my cup of tea so I was feeling apprehensive before starting this novel. But I confess that my curiosity was still stronger than the rest and after reading so many positive reviews about this book, I thought, “Why not? Let’s try, we’ll see!”

It is sure that Captive in the Dark remains to me a pretty intense reading as it is the first “dark romance” novel I read so I was a little bit surprised because I was not used to this kind of books. Indeed the atmosphere is very dark and oppressive. In this is a novel we have two point of view. For Livvie (the captive) the author uses the first person point of view and for Caleb (the abductor) the third person. The passages to Livvie’s perspective are quite disturbing and almost unbearable. Livvie will indeed be a victim of particularly abject violence and this starting from the beginning of the book.

This book is a suffocating story behind closed doors. The balance of power is created between the persecutor and his victim. Despite all she endures, Livvie is a young woman very strong mentally. She even manages sometimes to rebel and to stand up to Caleb. Then, little by little, her feelings become quite confused, everything becomes blurred in her head. Therefore, a special and disturbing relationship starts between these two characters. It was quite strange but at the same time, the author describes here very well the Stockholm syndrome.

As for Caleb, he is a very complex character, tortured and obsessed with revenge. He is also very unpredictable: sometimes he is cruel and ruthless, sometimes he is affectionate and concerned about the well-being of his captive. At first we hate him because of the evil things he does to Livvie and despite everything, C.J. Roberts manages to make us change our minds about this character. The reader even ends up to feel sympathy for this man certainly attractive but very dangerous. Although they were predictable, the revelations about him are atrocious. We finally understand his actions, his ultimate goal and his thirst for revenge.

In the end, even if the hardness of some scenes disturbed me a little, I must say that I devoured this novel. Once again, I will say it was an intense reading, something that may leave traces. But it was a good read. I was curious to know what would happen to Livvie: if she would avoid the terrible fate that Caleb had reserved for her. What I liked the most in this book is that it is well written. Even the harshest scenes are well written. There are many descriptions and details but without falling into vulgarity. The author’s writing is fluid and addictive throughout the book. Captive in the Dark ends on a cliffhanger that left me a bit dissatisfied but the excerpt taken from book 2 in the last pages announces a very interesting sequel plenty of twists that I will read with pleasure.

4mon pseudo