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Tuesday, 4 August 2020

‘The Only Child’ by Mi-Ae Seo


Published by Point Blank,
6 February 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-78607-855-1 (PB)

There’s been a fire, and Fire Inspector Sangwuk and Police Sergeant Dongski have been sent to investigate. The only survivor is a child, Hayeong, who asks to be sent to her father, living now with his new wife. Seonkyeong is willing to accept her uncommunicative stepdaughter, but she’s also got problems at work: the country’s most notorious serial killer Yi Byeongdo, has broken his prison silence to say he’ll talk to a psychiatrist – Seonkyong, and only her. What games is he playing?

This Korean-set psychological thriller moves between narrators. The main narrative is present-day, in the third person from Seonkyeong’s point of view: her criminal psychology lectures exploring theories of why some people become serial killers, her attempts to make Hayeong welcome in their home and to help her fit in at school, and her  interviews with Yi Byegongdo.

Byegongdo also tells his own story of the childhood abuse that turned him into a killer, and these sections occur throughout the book. There are also short sections with Hayeong’s point of view and her feelings about her new home and stepmother.

The story moves along swiftly; you quickly develop sympathy for the main characters, and hope that Seonkyeong can use her skills to help both her ‘children’. However you also fear that the darkness in Byegongdo is beyond mending, and that his use of Seonkyeong as a substitute mother will not end well. The ending scenes are real page-turners and the final twist was totally unexpected.

A gripping psycholocial thriller which looks at the experiences which make a serial killer, and asks if it’s possible to reverse that damage.
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Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Mi-Ae-Seo was born in Punggi. She started writing poetry for the first time after entering a college. At the age of 20, she was elected to a contest and debuted as a poet. After graduating from a college, she began her career as a broadcasting writer and turned into a screenplay writer, while writing mystery novels, too. From 1994 to 2005, she has focused on screenplay and only wrote short stories. In 2006, her first book 30 Ways To Kill Your Husband for which she won the Annual Spring Literary Contest. and she started to devote herself to write mystery novels. And some of her short stories became TV drama and movies. In 2010, The Only Child was published, and the film rights were sold just after the publication. She is writing the 2nd book of The Only Child.


Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.
Click on the title to read a review of her recent book
Death on a Shetland Isle

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