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.
I find myself on a bit of an international tour with my reading. Recently, I was in Nigeria with a police procedural and now I’m visiting South Korea with this intense psychological thriller. I had a little difficulty getting going with the story at the beginning because of the names but once I decided in my head on a pronunciation this book was hard to put down. The writing also struck me as a little stiff at times but I’m wondering if that is due to translation rather than any failing on the part of the author. The author so effectively takes the reader into the minds of her characters that is was impossible for me not to be impressed.
What really fascinated me with this story is the psychology behind the three main characters. The reader gets to go right along with Seonkyeong as she works her way through her own reactions to Yi Byeongdo and Haeyong and tries to use her training as a psychologist to understand how each of them has been shaped by their experiences. There are unexpected twists along the way and the ending could have gone a few different ways and wasn’t quite what I expected. Overall, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. Even though the story is set in South Korea, the issues addressed are universal.