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The Good Son

Review

The Good Son

There’s been a lot written lately about the boom in international literature --- including commercial and genre fiction --- being translated into English. This is exciting news for many reasons, but one particularly fortunate group of English-speaking readers are those who enjoy crime fiction. Starting with the phenomenal success of crime fiction from Scandinavia, readers are now enjoying a new influx of mysteries and thrillers from Asia.

Particularly notable is the arrival in the English-language market of bestselling South Korean author You-Jeong Jeong, who has aptly drawn comparisons with Patricia Highsmith and even Stephen King. THE GOOD SON, a number-one bestseller in South Korea, is her first book to be published in English, and readers will be clamoring for her other three novels to follow in short order.

"I don’t want to give too much away, but suffice it to say that You-Jeong Jeong’s creepy psychological thriller will keep readers on edge right up to the novel’s final page."

The opening of THE GOOD SON is striking. A young man, Yu-jin, awakes in bed, convinced he’s about to have one of the seizures that have periodically struck him for the past decade and a half. He quickly realizes, though, that the metallic scent that fills his nostrils is not the harbinger of an epileptic attack; rather, he is completely covered in blood, though he himself seems relatively unscathed. He follows a trail of blood through the modern, luxurious apartment he shares with his mother --- and encounters her lifeless body at the bottom of the stairs.

Yu-jin, who is about to find out if he has been accepted to law school, has lived alone with his mother and, eventually, his adopted brother since his biological brother and father were killed in a drowning accident when Yu-jin was just a child. He was once an accomplished swimmer on track to swim for the Korean national team, but after his aunt, a physician, prescribed him medication to control his seizures, he found that he’d lost his edge, including his competitive swimming drive. That’s why, lately, he’s been experimenting with skipping his medication; he likes the sharpness, the alertness he feels when he’s unmedicated.

But skipping his medicine also has surprising side effects, which may be why Yu-jin remembers very little of what happened the night before. He remembers going out for a late-night run along the sea, as is his habit…but after that is darkness. As Yu-jin scrambles to avoid having his mother’s body discovered --- since he knows he’d be the primary suspect --- he struggles to recall his own memories and uncover other clues about what might have happened.

I don’t want to give too much away, but suffice it to say that You-Jeong Jeong’s creepy psychological thriller will keep readers on edge right up to the novel’s final page. The author uses several effective techniques, including fluid chronologies, flashbacks and extensive excerpts from Yu-jin’s mother’s diary as readers --- not to mention Yu-jin himself --- begin to piece together the terrifying truth. THE GOOD SON is a quick read, especially since readers won’t want to turn off the lights until they’ve finished every last word.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on June 8, 2018

The Good Son
by You-Jeong Jeong