The Only Child

Ecco: HarperCollins. Feb. 2020. 304p. ISBN 9780062905048. $26.99. SUSPENSE
Korean author Seo’s U.S. debut is a dark dive into the mind-set of serial killers. Criminal psychologist Seonkyeong is invited to an interview with infamous killer Yi Byeongdo on the same day Hayeong, her husband’s daughter from a previous marriage, shows up on her doorstep after the girl’s grandparents are killed in an apartment fire. Seonkyeong opens her home to the girl but is unnerved by her strange actions. As she meets and listens to Yi Byeongdo’s account of his childhood, Seonkyeong makes connections to Hayeong, which troubles her enough to start taking a serial killer’s advice for dealing with her own stepdaughter. The novel explores themes of nature vs. nurture and investigates what makes a killer. While the translation may appear clunky to English readers, the author certainly delivers with the book’s creepy atmosphere.
VERDICT Fans of Thomas Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs, and Zoje Stage’s Baby Teeth will find this admirable, but readers particularly sensitive to depictions of child abuse might want to look elsewhere. [See Prepub Alert, 7/29/19.]

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