The Only Child
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.

The Only Child Details

TitleThe Only Child
Author
ReleaseFeb 11th, 2020
PublisherEcco
ISBN-139780062905055
Rating
GenreMystery, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Fiction, Horror

The Only Child Review

  • Chris
    January 1, 1970
    The Only Child is a translation of a Korean thriller featuring a criminal psychologist Seongkyeong who suddenly gets a phone call that a serial killer who has kept quiet for years suddenly wants to talk, but only to her. The same day this inexperienced criminal psychologist interviews Yi Byeongdo, she is surprised to find that her husband has brought his daughter from a previous marriage to live with them after her grandparents die after a fire that Hayeong was the lone survivor of. As the story The Only Child is a translation of a Korean thriller featuring a criminal psychologist Seongkyeong who suddenly gets a phone call that a serial killer who has kept quiet for years suddenly wants to talk, but only to her. The same day this inexperienced criminal psychologist interviews Yi Byeongdo, she is surprised to find that her husband has brought his daughter from a previous marriage to live with them after her grandparents die after a fire that Hayeong was the lone survivor of. As the story progresses and Syongkyeong interviews Yi Byeongdo more, she starts to see parallels between her 11 year old stepdaughter and the serial killer. Is it possible that young Hayeong has the traits to one day become a serial killer herself?This slow burn thriller is more character driven than plot driven and at times it doesnt flow too well, I'm guessing that's from the translation though. Once you get used to the rhythm of the translation, it didn't really bother me too much though. Overall, the story was enjoyable and the exposure to Korean culture was interesting. If you like slow burn suspense or character driven novels, this one is worth a look.My thanks to HarperCollins, author Mi-ae Seo, and Netgalley for providing me with a digital copy in exchange for my honest review.
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  • Faith
    January 1, 1970
    Eleven year old Hayeong is found uninjured after a fire kills her grandparents with whom she had been living since the death of her mother. Hayeong is collected by her indifferent father Jaeseong, a busy surgeon. Jaeseong has recently married Seonkyeong, a criminal psychologist who seems woefully unqualified for her job. This book had the interesting idea of comparing the stories of an adult serial killer with that of a child who shared a similarly abusive background. Unfortunately, I found the Eleven year old Hayeong is found uninjured after a fire kills her grandparents with whom she had been living since the death of her mother. Hayeong is collected by her indifferent father Jaeseong, a busy surgeon. Jaeseong has recently married Seonkyeong, a criminal psychologist who seems woefully unqualified for her job. This book had the interesting idea of comparing the stories of an adult serial killer with that of a child who shared a similarly abusive background. Unfortunately, I found the writing choppy, flat and colorless, which was possibly caused by the translation but I have no way of knowing that. The characters were also flat and colorless. There was no obvious connection between Jaeseong and Seonkyeong. I had no idea why they were married. Since Seonkyeong was tasked with interviewing an imprisoned serial killer, the book kept drawing comparisons to “The Silence of the Lambs”. I don’t think that it is wise for authors to draw attention to better books. It was obvious where this story was headed, except for the very end at which one character acted so stupidly that it could not have been predicted. This book was just ok for me. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
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  • Marjorie
    January 1, 1970
    Yi Byeongdo is a serial killer sitting on death row. He hasn’t said much to anyone about the murders he’s committed and the police are anxious to learn just how many murders there were. Unexpectedly, Yi Byeongdo has asked to be interviewed by a criminal psychologist by the name of Seonkyeong. Seonkyeong has no idea why Yi Byeongdo has singled her out as she does not know him.Seonkyeong has just been surprised by her husband with the arrival of his eleven-year-old daughter from a previous Yi Byeongdo is a serial killer sitting on death row. He hasn’t said much to anyone about the murders he’s committed and the police are anxious to learn just how many murders there were. Unexpectedly, Yi Byeongdo has asked to be interviewed by a criminal psychologist by the name of Seonkyeong. Seonkyeong has no idea why Yi Byeongdo has singled her out as she does not know him.Seonkyeong has just been surprised by her husband with the arrival of his eleven-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, Hayeong. There has been a fire and Hayeong’s grandparents with whom she was living have died. Seonkyeong is anxious to help Hayeong feel at home but soon starts to feel out of her depth. Seonkyeong starts to see quite a few similarities in the histories of both Yi Byeongdo and Hayeong.I must say that I was disappointed with this one. I have enjoyed the writing of other Korean authors and apparently Mi-ae Seo is a bestselling thriller author and screenwriter in Korea. I just could not get into this story and found it to be written in quite a lackluster way. There were moments when I thought, OK, here we go, but then nothing much happened. For being a criminal psychologist, Seonkyeong’s thinking and decisions were disconcerting. She should have known better in so many instances and that leant the book a feeling of unreality. There were quite a few unbelievable incidents in the book. While the author did a good job of weaving the separate storylines together, all I could think at the ending of the book was “You have to be kidding”.Hopefully this book will find an audience that will love it but it’s not one that I can honestly recommend, even though it did have its moments.This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.
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  • Alma Katsu
    January 1, 1970
    For fans of TV’s Mindhunter, Mi-Ae Seo’s novel THE ONLY CHILD feels like true crime but is a tour de force of twisty fiction with a shocking ending you won’t be able to stop thinking about.A criminal psychologist is sent to plumb the mind of an enigmatic serial killer, while at the same time unearthing the terrifying past of the stepdaughter who has just come to live with her. Family secrets abound in this fine novel of psychological suspense.
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  • Liz | The Crime Girl
    January 1, 1970
    2.5 stars!GUYS, I’m honestly so sad that I didn’t enjoy this book. I’d seen a ton of mixed reviews before going into it (which usually makes me more excited going into a book) but it really just didn’t work for me! THE ONLY CHILD follows a criminal psychologist who discovers a shocking and possibly dangerous connection between a serial killer and her husbands daughter.𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐈 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞𝐝:– I did really enjoy the fact the book dealt with a serial killer. That was something that was really interesting 2.5 stars!GUYS, I’m honestly so sad that I didn’t enjoy this book. I’d seen a ton of mixed reviews before going into it (which usually makes me more excited going into a book) but it really just didn’t work for me! THE ONLY CHILD follows a criminal psychologist who discovers a shocking and possibly dangerous connection between a serial killer and her husbands daughter.⁣⁣𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐈 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞𝐝:⁣– I did really enjoy the fact the book dealt with a serial killer. That was something that was really interesting reading about but the author did not go into enough depth for me personally and I felt some things were left unanswered.⁣– I still can’t decide whether I liked the fact it had a slight Silence of The Lambs vibe?!⁣– Despite the fact I didn’t love this, I did find it quick to read and would definitely recommend trying to binge read it in 1/2 sittings if you’re gonna read it!⁣⁣𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐈 𝐝𝐢𝐝𝐧’𝐭 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞:⁣– I honestly really struggled with the translation. It’s not something I usually notice, but this one I felt like something was missing in the translation. I also felt that some sentences/paragraphs were WAY too overly worded and could easily be condensed.⁣– I thought overall it was very predictable. I can’t remember there being anything twist wise that I found surprising and for me the ending just didn’t do it for me.⁣– I also struggled with the fact this one is classified as a ‘thriller’ or even a ‘mystery’ because it definitely didn’t feel like one for me. It felt more domestic. I honestly wouldn’t know how to classify it ⁣– I never felt invested in the story or any of the characters really ⁣⁣Overall, I personally wouldn’t go out my way to recommend this one to you guys. It just didn’t hit the mark for me; however, that doesn’t mean it won’t be enjoyed by you! So if you are planning on reading this one, I hope you find it more enjoyable than me!Huge thank you to One World Publications for sending me a gifted copy of The Only Child in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Ajla
    January 1, 1970
    This creeped me out so much! Finally a five-star read this year.
  • Ludwig
    January 1, 1970
    "Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer came down upon her head..."Excuse me as this Beatles song now hums unstoppably in my head and contributes to me having nightmares for days to come. What makes a serial killer?The Only Child is a brutally detailed look into the childhood life of a serial killer, emphasizing the maternal and environmental aspect so meticulously you're going to have to sleep with the lights on. The characters - including strong female lead Seonkyong, her stepdaughter and the "Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer came down upon her head..."Excuse me as this Beatles song now hums unstoppably in my head and contributes to me having nightmares for days to come. What makes a serial killer?The Only Child is a brutally detailed look into the childhood life of a serial killer, emphasizing the maternal and environmental aspect so meticulously you're going to have to sleep with the lights on. The characters - including strong female lead Seonkyong, her stepdaughter and the killer, are all very well-defined. I enjoyed the writing - it was very smooth and friendly. In The Only Child, the author is not afraid to explore some very dark territories. The novel goes back and forth between criminal psychologist Seonkyong, and the killer - whose mind occasionally rushes back to the incredibly sinister relationship he used to have with his mother. A slew of passages containing the killer's history of child abuse were pretty disturbing. They suck you in instantly. I had no time to put this book down - I was invested in the topics being treated and the horror of the lives of the characters that led them enough to race through the pages and comprehend the severity of everything that's going on.What I mostly loved about this book were the criminal psychologist's curiosity about the killer's crimes, the detailed exploration of the killer's childhood, and the interview scenes conducted at the detention center. The ending...it was definitely a moment of shock. I was aspiring for a different conclusion for a particular character. However, we are given an explanation as to what idea/feeling the author endeavored to generate through the final page. I just read that this book is optioned for film by Carnival Films (the television company that produced Downton Abbey), and considering some extraordinary cinematic passages in this novel, I have a feeling the adaptation will be brilliant.
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  • Paul Fulcher
    January 1, 1970
    "내가 비밀 한 가지 말해줄까요?""Do you want me to tell you a secret?"The Only Child has been translated by Jung Yewon from 서 미애 (Mi-ae So)'s Korean language original 잘 자요 엄마.Seonkyeong (선경) is a criminal psychiatrist, who went on a course at the FBI and was thereafter nicknamed Clarice Starling by her students. And in a case of life imitating art, as the novel opens, an infamous serial killer, Yi Byeongdo (이병도), one she has never met, says he will speak about his crimes, but only to her. And it transpires "내가 비밀 한 가지 말해줄까요?""Do you want me to tell you a secret?"The Only Child has been translated by Jung Yewon from 서 미애 (Mi-ae So)'s Korean language original 잘 자요 엄마.Seonkyeong (선경) is a criminal psychiatrist, who went on a course at the FBI and was thereafter nicknamed Clarice Starling by her students. And in a case of life imitating art, as the novel opens, an infamous serial killer, Yi Byeongdo (이병도), one she has never met, says he will speak about his crimes, but only to her. And it transpires that she reminds him of someone significant in his past.Yi Byeongdo's first murder was of his abusive mother:'“What’s the oldest memory in your head?” That is the first thing I ask when I meet people. Somehow, it seems that the first memory in someone’s head determines his destiny or personality. And it seems that you can tell what kind of person he is based on the memory. The oldest memory I’ve ever heard of was from a man who remembered getting a bowl of seaweed soup on his first birthday. It being his first birthday, it had been exactly a year since he was born into the world. I asked him how he remembered that, and he said that as soon as he got the bowl, he threw up in it. That’s why he never forgot. I had a drink from time to time with this man who never had seaweed soup after that, and I think his habit of throwing up formed on that day. If such a nauseating memory was my first memory, I would want to throw up, too. Still, his is better than mine. Once in a while, I picture myself doing something. I’m lying in a comfortable chair, and tracing my memory as the hypnotist tells me to. As you go back in time, you remember your childhood days, even your mother’s womb, they say. Some people see their past lives. I don’t want to find out about my past life, of course. I don’t even believe in such things.What I’d like to know is what my mom looked like when I came out through darkness into the world. I want to know what kind of look she had on her face at that moment. Why?I think it’s because my mom told me that she hated me before I was even born. She said she didn’t look at me after I came out.'And the first question he, turning the tables in a conscious echo of Hannibal Lecter, even quoting his words, asks Seonkyeong, during their interview, is about her first memory.The Beatles song Maxwell's Silver Hammer, a song his mother hummed while abusing him, plays a key role in triggering his murders:'Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer came down upon her head. . . 'which again links to an infamous real-life case in Korea (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoo_You...).'Music had been a major issue after the Yu Yeongcheol murders as well. Yu Yeongcheol said that he had the theme song of the movie 1492: Conquest of Paradise playing while he was in the bathroom taking care of the bodies of the women he had killed. It was unknown whether the song had inspired him, or he had listened to the music simply because he liked it.'On the same day as she first meets him, her husband's daughter, Hayeong (하영), from his first marriage, comes to live with them. A deeply disturbed child, Hayeong had been living with her maternal grandparents but the previous night they had died in a fire. Except the investigators suspects that this was murder rather than an accident, and there is one possible but shocking suspect.The stage is then set for something of a Damian meets Hannibal Lecter situation, with a trace of Psycho thrown in, with Seonkyeong caught in the middle.This isn’t my usual reading fare so I am not best qualified to benchmark this as a psychological thriller.But a note on the translation, which has received mixed comments from other reviewers.   Content-wise this isn’t a particularly Korean book, the setting and characters are relatively generic, but opinions seem to vary on how naturally it reads in English.     This is the 6th translation by Jung Yewon I have read, having previously completed Vaseline Buddha by Jung Young-moon, One Hundred Shadows by by Hwang Jungeun and from the Dalkey Archive Library of Korean Literature Mannequin by Ch'oe Yun, No One Writes Back by Eun-Jin Jang, and parts of A Most Ambiguous Sunday and Other Stories by Jung Young-moon.  She has also translated another Jung Young-moon book, Seven Samurai Swept Away in a River. She is one of my favourite Korean-English translators and I have previously commented that her work has a style which I find intriguing but difficult to describe: she both renders the books into excellent English but retains a translated/Korean feel to the phrasing.  This works particularly well for the authors above since there isn’t really an equivalent voice in English of say Jung Young-moon’s distinctively style.   And I have previously contrasted her with another favourite, Sora Kim-Russell, from whom I have read 10 Korean-English translations.  I am an equal fan of her work but compared to Jung her translations tend to be towards the reads-naturally-in-English end of the spectrum, which perhaps makes her more suited to thrillers, such as her translations of The Plotters by Un-su Kim, and The Hole by by Hye-Young Pyun, (although her rendition of Bae Suah’s powerful, unique and highly literary, Nowhere to be Found, was stunning.) And a translation peeve of mine: book titles being changed unnecessarily.  Here the Korean title 잘 자요 엄마 could be rendered literally as Sleep Well, Mum/Mother or (less literally) Good Night, Mother - which indeed are the words that closet the novel.   The French version manages Bonne nuit maman (albeit the Spanish Hija única mirrors the English).Overall 2.5 stars.  As a fan of literary fiction and Korean culture this is not a type of novel I would read other than in Korean translation, and it was rather less Korean in setting that I had hoped.  
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  • Elvina Zafril
    January 1, 1970
    Actual rating 3.5 starsThe Only Child surprised me with its captivating story. The first Korean modern thriller I read. It was good. If you are a fan of Mindhunter you probably will like this.Seonkyeong is being asked to interview a serial killer who has not speak since being caught. His murders have shocked the entire nation. This happened at the same time when her husband brought home Hayeong, his daughter from his previous marriage. Seonkyeong needed to adapt with the changes of her life. She Actual rating 3.5 starsThe Only Child surprised me with its captivating story. The first Korean modern thriller I read. It was good. If you are a fan of Mindhunter you probably will like this.Seonkyeong is being asked to interview a serial killer who has not speak since being caught. His murders have shocked the entire nation. This happened at the same time when her husband brought home Hayeong, his daughter from his previous marriage. Seonkyeong needed to adapt with the changes of her life. She knows that the changes will give a huge impact of her life. Things are going to be different. This story was written in the third person pov. I was invested in characters and I find myself being so emotionally attached the characters. They made me concern about them and angry with them. The best part about this book were the criminal psychologist's curiosity about the killer's crimes, the interview scenes conducted at the detention centre and the detailed exploration of the killer's childhood.The plot was good enough and despite it is a translation, it didn’t feel like it was translated. I got to see a lot of parallels to real life serial killers and this author must have quite a lot of research about serial killers. The author used reference like Ted Bundy and Mary Bell. I only familiar with these two. However, there were not much of the twist and some parts were just predictable.I was still enjoying the story and the ending was just something that I didn’t really expect to happen. Overall, it was a good read for me.Thank you Times Reads for sending me a copy of The Only Child in return for an honest review. This book is available at all good bookstores.
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  • Nicole
    January 1, 1970
    Oh boy! This was not a good book...Firstly, the writing wasn't very good. I don't know if that's because it wasn't written well or because this is a Korean translation and the translation was poor Secondly, its essentially just a Korean version of silence of the lambs. It even referred to silence of the lambs on mutiple occasions. I didn't really see the point in it I saw the ending coming too. I was expecting some big twist but it was very obvious where the book was going.There was also some Oh boy! This was not a good book...Firstly, the writing wasn't very good. I don't know if that's because it wasn't written well or because this is a Korean translation and the translation was poor Secondly, its essentially just a Korean version of silence of the lambs. It even referred to silence of the lambs on mutiple occasions. I didn't really see the point in it I saw the ending coming too. I was expecting some big twist but it was very obvious where the book was going.There was also some major loopholes and things towards the end which didn't really make sense and weren't discussed later on. Some things just didn't add up... Although it was nice to follow a forensic psychologist, none of the characters were particularly interested nor did I really care for them at all really Thankfully it was relatively short. There were parts when I was really bored and couldn't care less. Overall, this was a very disappointing read TW: Animal cruelty, murder and suicide
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  • Em Stevens
    January 1, 1970
    I read an ARC, so it is hard to tell how much of the choppy writing is translation style and how much is that it's still in the editing process. It was hard for me to connect with the main character. If I'd understood more of her career motivations, or more of her relationship to her husband, maybe then I could justify the naivete and slow realizations of what was coming into play. This was sent with a note that said it was like "Silence of the Lambs" but the serial killer wasn't creepy or I read an ARC, so it is hard to tell how much of the choppy writing is translation style and how much is that it's still in the editing process. It was hard for me to connect with the main character. If I'd understood more of her career motivations, or more of her relationship to her husband, maybe then I could justify the naivete and slow realizations of what was coming into play. This was sent with a note that said it was like "Silence of the Lambs" but the serial killer wasn't creepy or scary, just cray cray. I felt like it was more similar to "Baby Teeth". I really wanted it to pick a direction. Either do more with the atmosphere and relationship of the MC and her step daughter or more with the MC and the serial killer. But it became muddled. The end was, at least, pretty satisfying.
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  • Amy
    January 1, 1970
    I received am ARC of this book from NetGalley, all thoughts and opinions are my open. I ended up disliking by this book from the first chapter. The writing was poorly done, being too wordy and making the story drag. A lot of the storyline was borrowed from Silence of the Lambs, and I found the plot to be enormously predictable. On top of that, I could my get myself to root for any of the characters, and the villain the main character visits was terribly annoying and his story went absolutely I received am ARC of this book from NetGalley, all thoughts and opinions are my open. I ended up disliking by this book from the first chapter. The writing was poorly done, being too wordy and making the story drag. A lot of the storyline was borrowed from Silence of the Lambs, and I found the plot to be enormously predictable. On top of that, I could my get myself to root for any of the characters, and the villain the main character visits was terribly annoying and his story went absolutely nowhere.
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  • Jamie Canaves
    January 1, 1970
    At the center of a venn diagram with Natsuo Kirino, Kanae Minato, Silence of the Lambs, and The Bad Child is Mi-ae Seo’s upcoming novel The Only Child! I read it in two sittings and it made me angry that more crime novels aren’t translated. It asks the question of nurture vs nature when a dark criminal mind meets a kind, optimistic, criminal psychologist. (TW child abuse/ animal cruelty/ past suicide)--from Book Riot's Unusual Suspects newsletter: https://link.bookriot.com/view/56a820...
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  • laipeen
    January 1, 1970
    If you think kids are little monsters in cherubim form, this is the book that might speak to you. The premise is simple. A criminal psychologist, Seonkyeong, is minding her own business when suddenly two events collide with her life: a convicted serial killer demands to speak with her, and her husband’s daughter from a previous marriage comes to live under her roof. Both individuals seem sinister but what harm can they do to Seonkyeong, really? One is behind bars, and the other is a traumatised If you think kids are little monsters in cherubim form, this is the book that might speak to you. The premise is simple. A criminal psychologist, Seonkyeong, is minding her own business when suddenly two events collide with her life: a convicted serial killer demands to speak with her, and her husband’s daughter from a previous marriage comes to live under her roof. Both individuals seem sinister but what harm can they do to Seonkyeong, really? One is behind bars, and the other is a traumatised eleven-year-old child who just escaped from a fire and lost her grandparents. Yi Byeongdo has killed dozens of women, but there is a mystery surrounding his motivations. He would not speak to anyone except Seonkyeong, which in itself is an unnerving mystery because the latter does not know him. How does Yi Byeongdo know her and what does he want to do with her? Hayeong is the petulant child who is possessive of her dirty teddy bear. She cannot tolerate Seonkyeong no matter how she tries to help her settle into her new home. There is one thing that the serial killer and the child have in common – they both had abusive mothers.Domestic violence and violence towards animals (especially cats!) feature quite prominently in quite grisly detail in the book. There is drowning, stabbing, hitting, throwing. So, if you cannot bear to read scenes of such violence, brace yourself, or give this a miss. The language is choppy and flat in certain places. I am not sure if this is because of poor translation or it does read like this in original Korean. This is negligible, however, as I found myself swept into the plot quite quickly after the first draggy chapter. The point of view switches from 3rd person to 1st person, so for a while, I was guessing who the “I” was.There is quite a bit of wondering to do as the first half of the book narrates the challenges Seonkyeong goes through with these two new people in her life, and the reader wonders how these separate incidents would tie together. It is only at the very end the connection is made clear, but disappointingly, it is rather weak, in my opinion. Perhaps I had high expectations! However, notwithstanding the weak link between Hayeong and Yi Byeongdo, the story does end neatly. It would be a bit misleading to call this a thriller – it didn’t give me the thrill or excitement that other thrillers did. It is a page turner because it’s easy to breeze through, but not because it keeps you on tenterhooks wondering what’s going to happen next. If one is looking for a thriller to read, this would not be among the top of my recommendations. However, if you are looking for a quick read featuring domestic violence and creepy evil children, then OK.Many thanks to Times Reads for this book in exchange for an honest review.
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  • PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps
    January 1, 1970
    ***Thanks to NetGalley for providing me a complimentary copy of THE ONLY CHILD by Mi-ae Seo in exchange for my honest review.***A criminal psychiatrist becomes alarmed with the parallels between the serial killer she’s interviewing and her own stepdaughter, who recently came to live with the family.Reminiscent of BABY TEETH and THE BAD SEED, THE ONLY CHILD is a great premise for a psychological thriller. I enjoyed the details of the story more than the actual book. Reading Mi-ae See’s translated ***Thanks to NetGalley for providing me a complimentary copy of THE ONLY CHILD by Mi-ae Seo in exchange for my honest review.***A criminal psychiatrist becomes alarmed with the parallels between the serial killer she’s interviewing and her own stepdaughter, who recently came to live with the family.Reminiscent of BABY TEETH and THE BAD SEED, THE ONLY CHILD is a great premise for a psychological thriller. I enjoyed the details of the story more than the actual book. Reading Mi-ae See’s translated words felt like a chore rather than pleasure. I haven’t had a lot of luck with books translated to English so when my biggest issue with THE ONLY CHILD was the clunky reading experience, it may very well be a case of it’s me, not the book.I can picture THE ONLY CHILD as a Netflix miniseries or film and would be sure to watch.
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  • Caecilia Saori
    January 1, 1970
    Since Goodreads only allows for either 3 OR 4 stars, going rather for a 3 (based on comparison with Lock Every Door which I have enjoyed a tad more)Consider this one a 3 1/2 stars from me.Plot summary & my thoughts:Criminal psychologist Seonkyeong is being asked to interview a serial killer, whose murders have shocked the nation, but who has not spoken since being caught. At almost the same time, her husband brings home Hayeong, his daughter from the previous marriage - after a fire has Since Goodreads only allows for either 3 OR 4 stars, going rather for a 3 (based on comparison with Lock Every Door which I have enjoyed a tad more)Consider this one a 3 1/2 stars from me.Plot summary & my thoughts:Criminal psychologist Seonkyeong is being asked to interview a serial killer, whose murders have shocked the nation, but who has not spoken since being caught. At almost the same time, her husband brings home Hayeong, his daughter from the previous marriage - after a fire 🔥 has killed both the girl’s grandparents. Faced with these new situations, Seonkyeong embraces the change not knowing it will have a huge impact on her life.While this novel is not as twisty, as e.g. Kanae Minato’s thrillers I have followed Seonkyeong’s thoughts 💭 and her open-mindedness with admiration. This is NOT a multi-layered glamorous thriller with lots of names or complex timelines. The author’s voice is a more quiet one, but the book carries a layer of discomfort that will have you shiver, at times. I often miss a more precise character study in crime or thriller books - in this case, I am happy to share that I feel I’ve had a chance to get to know Seonkyeong and her personality, in detail.
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  • Emily
    January 1, 1970
    I'm setting this one aside. I was really looking forward to it, but the story has not caught my attention, and the translation feels very stilted.
  • Pearline Ho
    January 1, 1970
    Twist at the end. Was puzzled as to how the stories of Hayeong, the child and the murderer Byeongdo will intersect. Well they don't really, there isn't much lore to it. They just met in a different way than I expected. Fast read, but the writing was a little choppy and bland. Am I the only one who feels much more for the murder of well an animal versus that of a human?
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  • TheGirlWhoKeptReading
    January 1, 1970
    The Only Child is about a criminal psychologist (Seonkyeong) who receives an unexpected call saying that a serial killer wants to be interviewed. That same day, her husband's daughter, from a previous marriage, shows up at her door after her grandparents die in a fire. Seonkyeong starts to see similarities between her stepdaughter and the serial killer and we are taken on a wild ride as she starts to dive deep into these two characters.What I loved most about this book was the multiple The Only Child is about a criminal psychologist (Seonkyeong) who receives an unexpected call saying that a serial killer wants to be interviewed. That same day, her husband's daughter, from a previous marriage, shows up at her door after her grandparents die in a fire. Seonkyeong starts to see similarities between her stepdaughter and the serial killer and we are taken on a wild ride as she starts to dive deep into these two characters.What I loved most about this book was the multiple perspectives, especially since one was from a child. I absolutely love books that use this format. It keeps me engaged and it makes the story more interesting and it also keeps you on your toes. There is a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) creepiness to The Only Child that really unnerved me. There are so many suspense books out there today that it can start to feel a bit mundane, but this one had a significant edge to it that I really appreciated. I also really enjoyed the ending, but I can't say much about that or it will spoil it for you!I did struggle with the translation. I'm not sure if that was just me, but it did inhibit me from fully enjoying this one. I also prefer more of a "crazy plot-twist" style story and this wasn't quite it for me, but I did enjoy the book and I do think that it's worth a read if you enjoy psychological suspense books.Thank you to #netgalley and #harpercollins for this ARC.
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  • Kimmy
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 starsI was very excited to read this book! It’s another one that I’d heard lots about, so I was eager to get a copy from the library as soon as I could.I found this a bit slow to start, but then I really got into it. Overall I didn’t love this one, but I liked it. I thought the pacing was kind of off-kilter throughout, and for a short book, there were several moments where nothing seemed to be happening.But the premise certainly drew me in, and I liked the way things came together in the 3.5 starsI was very excited to read this book! It’s another one that I’d heard lots about, so I was eager to get a copy from the library as soon as I could.I found this a bit slow to start, but then I really got into it. Overall I didn’t love this one, but I liked it. I thought the pacing was kind of off-kilter throughout, and for a short book, there were several moments where nothing seemed to be happening.But the premise certainly drew me in, and I liked the way things came together in the end. But I’m glad this was one I picked up through the library rather than one I purchased.
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  • Manny
    January 1, 1970
    I received a free advanced reader’s eproof copy of The Only Child from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, publisher, and Netgalley! As Seonkyeong’s first semester teaching criminal psychology at a university comes to an end, she receives an unexpected phone call from the director of the Association of Criminal Psychology. Yi Byeongdo, a notorious serial killer imprisoned for the murder of 13 plus women, personally requests to an interview with Seonkyeong. This I received a free advanced reader’s eproof copy of The Only Child from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, publisher, and Netgalley! As Seonkyeong’s first semester teaching criminal psychology at a university comes to an end, she receives an unexpected phone call from the director of the Association of Criminal Psychology. Yi Byeongdo, a notorious serial killer imprisoned for the murder of 13 plus women, personally requests to an interview with Seonkyeong. This comes as a complete shock. For years, Yi Byeongdo has remained silent and refused to discuss his crimes with anybody. So why choose Seonkyeong, a woman who has never crossed paths with Yi Byeongdo . . . or so she thought. Thus, begins the story The Only Child by Mi-ae Seo. Before reading this novel, I highly recommend not reading the Goodread’s synopsis for this book. I feel it gives away way too much of the story, more than half of the novel in fact, and can make it less enjoyable. I was thoroughly surprised by this novel and was captivated until the very end. This is the first modern Korean novel I have read, the only other ones being proletarian literature from the early to the middle 20th century, and I was not disappointed. From this story, I learned more about Korean culture and the criminal justice system that is put in place. I was invested in the characters and found myself getting genuinely concerned or angry when certain things happened. This story is written in the third-person perspective, so we are able to see the point-of-view of many characters in the story and not just our main two characters, Seonkyeong and Byeongdo. Although, I have to say Seonkyeong was my favorite and a strong female lead. For being a translation, the writing flows well to the point where I was completely immersed and could not tell it was a translation. From working with translating original works in Japanese to English, I know it is incredibly difficult to capture the original atmosphere the author intended. This is from phrases not completely transferring over cultures or the meaning not quite making sense in English. As a translator, translating the work literally causes the writing to feel stiff and robotic. A lot of translators have to do guesswork and add their own interpretation of the text to make a good translation, and I feel the translator did this well. There were a few parts where you could tell something was amiss. For example, the same phrase would be repeated multiple times in a row, just said in a different way. However, this did not happen often and was more towards the first half of the book. We see a lot of parallels to real-life serial killers which, for the most part, the author acknowledges. Mi-ae Seo makes direct references to Ted Bundy, Yu Yeongcheol, and Mary Bell. In a way, it makes the story feel more realistic when referencing these people as if this story was actually taking place. One unacknowledged connection with a real-life serial killer was the use of the song Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. Charles Manson was notorious for using Beatles songs to justify his actions, so this was a little too much, and the author could have chosen a different, more original song to use. However, I feel Yi Byeongdo had enough originalities about him that, for the most part, he did not feel like a copy and paste version of these real-life serial killers. One negative I have with the story is how predictable some of the plot points were. I was able to realize what was going on when only in the first quarter of the novel. Despite this, I found myself still engaged, and the actual ending was something I had not seen coming. You are left with more questions than answers at the end, so if you are someone who does not like an open ending, you may not enjoy this one. Overall, I would give this a 3.5 out of 5 stars, rounding up to 4. I would definitely recommend this to people who love thrillers and crime novels and want to read one from a Korean author.
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  • Elisa
    January 1, 1970
    When reading a translated book you like you probably don't give much thought to the original version, which is why I don't like blaming the translator when I don't enjoy a novel. In this case, I have to question the English translation. The text is repetitive to the extreme and the dialogues sound strange (for instance, everybody asks if they can get their visitors something "cold" to drink -every single time they greet someone). I also wasn't sure if some of the events seem nonsensical to When reading a translated book you like you probably don't give much thought to the original version, which is why I don't like blaming the translator when I don't enjoy a novel. In this case, I have to question the English translation. The text is repetitive to the extreme and the dialogues sound strange (for instance, everybody asks if they can get their visitors something "cold" to drink -every single time they greet someone). I also wasn't sure if some of the events seem nonsensical to someone who knows nothing of Korean culture, or if there was something significant about what was happening. I had no idea whether Seonkyeong's husband is supposed to be a jerk, or if it's just that Korean culture allows men to bring home their daughters from previous marriages to be cared for by their new wives without asking or explaining. Some characters, like the investigators, are introduced only to be forgotten and brought back when needed. I loved the ending though, it made reading the novel worth it. I chose to read this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thank you, NetGalley/HarperCollins Publishers!
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  • Jenn Adams
    January 1, 1970
    Received an eARC from Net Galley in exchange for an honest reviewI decided to read this in the time period leading up to Halloween hoping that I would get a mind-bending psychological thriller and now that I've finished... meh.The main character is supposedly an expert in criminal psychology, but you wouldn't really know it from her actions and mindset in the story. The story was generally a bit disjointed and the two parts did not end up being entwined the way I had anticipated. Now, that's not Received an eARC from Net Galley in exchange for an honest reviewI decided to read this in the time period leading up to Halloween hoping that I would get a mind-bending psychological thriller and now that I've finished... meh.The main character is supposedly an expert in criminal psychology, but you wouldn't really know it from her actions and mindset in the story. The story was generally a bit disjointed and the two parts did not end up being entwined the way I had anticipated. Now, that's not inherently a reason to put down the book. In fact, most of the time with a thriller you hope to be surprised. But the way it came together at the end just didn't feel satisfying. There were aspects that felt far fetched and others that I simply wished had been fleshed out more. I'm a fairly nervous person and I did not feel the "persistent creepiness" or "psychological suspense" that the synopsis had promised.All in all, it was not a BAD book. I don't feel like I wasted my time, but I would not go out of my way to recommend this to someone looking for a thriller.
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  • Morgan Schulman
    January 1, 1970
    I received an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review I was not expecting that at all- got me sleeping with one eye open and watching my kids a little differently. Definitely different and super creepy, but worth it. Don’t want to say more and spoil, if you enjoy creepy twisted mess you'll Love this
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  • Morgan Schulman
    January 1, 1970
    I received an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review I was not expecting that at all- got me sleeping with one eye open and watching my kids a little differently. Definitely different and super creepy, but worth it. Don’t want to say more and spoil, if you enjoy creepy twisted mess you'll Love this
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  • Barbara
    January 1, 1970
    Hannibal Lector, move over..... for the bad seed, the little girl serial killer of The Only Child. Fast paced, page turning... I could not put it down until I finished - thank God there is a sequel !
  • Amyn
    January 1, 1970
    Fucking fantastic!
  • Lauren
    January 1, 1970
    Uh, holy crap. This book is bonkers! That ending! A seriously messed up psychological thriller that begs the questions: what makes a killer?
  • Tracy
    January 1, 1970
    Don't get hung up on the initial similarities to Silence of Lambs or what feels predictable; it's a page turner.
  • Kyle Wendy Skultety (gimmethatbook.com)
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!THE ONLY CHILD is a very dark book that explores the mind of a fictional serial killer while contrasting his behavior with Hayeong, the main character’s stepdaughter. Seonkyeong is a criminal psychologist who is summoned to prison to interview the notorious killer Yi Byeongdo. As she delves deeper into his mind through his stories, she notices how his mannerisms mirror that of 11-year-old Hayeong, who has recently come to live with her and her husband after a Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!THE ONLY CHILD is a very dark book that explores the mind of a fictional serial killer while contrasting his behavior with Hayeong, the main character’s stepdaughter. Seonkyeong is a criminal psychologist who is summoned to prison to interview the notorious killer Yi Byeongdo. As she delves deeper into his mind through his stories, she notices how his mannerisms mirror that of 11-year-old Hayeong, who has recently come to live with her and her husband after a fire destroys her house.The story is told from multiple points of view, with a concerted effort to make Byeongdo appear somewhat sympathetic. Hayeong is a manipulative little girl and I disliked her immediately. Seonkyeong’s husband brings his daughter into the house and soon becomes an absentee father, only seeing the “good” side of the girl.The plot could have used a bit of tightening up, as it takes a while to establish Hayeong’s dark side. There is a longish portion regarding the “punishment” of a cat which could have been shorter yet still convey the latent evil that was lurking that day. There is also a series of dithering by Seonkyeong in which she alternately fears the girl, then feels sorry for her due to the tragedies that have befallen her. She seems almost blind to the danger that Hayeong poses to her family.Most of the action occurs around the last 15% of the book, as the serial killer escapes jail while the tension between the psychologist and the girl comes to a head. The ending itself is a shocker yet I felt it wasn’t a surprise.None of these characters are truly given life; I am not sure if it is due to the original work being translated, or if it is the writer’s style. (Click here for information on more Korean mysteries being translated into English.) There is only the briefest of backstory and Seonkyeong is not portrayed as a strong female character. Certainly someone of her background would have better sense regarding Hayeong’s penchant for evil. Again, this could be due to the culture, as Asian women are not known for taking the lead and being dominant. In any case, I wish she had been given more of a backbone, especially as she began discovering Hayeong’s secrets.I would like to see a sequel to this book to see what happens next with the characters. The ending does leave room for another story, and I can imagine different plot twists taking place. All in all, not a bad read.
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