Slight spoilers abound, but honestly, if you read the blurb, you’ll probably realise it’s not actually that spoilery.
What is this about?: It is an exploration of evil. It hardly matters who dies and who doesn’t, because this is a story about why.
What else is this about?: See above. It’s enough.
The Talented Mr. Ripley meets The Bad Seed in this breathless, chilling psychological thriller by the bestselling novelist known as “Korea’s Stephen King”
Who can you trust if you can’t trust yourself?
Early one morning, twenty-six-year-old Yu-jin wakes up to a strange metallic smell, and a phone call from his brother asking if everything’s all right at home – he missed a call from their mother in the middle of the night. Yu-jin soon discovers her murdered body, lying in a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs of their stylish Seoul duplex. He can’t remember much about the night before; having suffered from seizures for most of his life, Yu-jin often has trouble with his memory. All he has is a faint impression of his mother calling his name. But was she calling for help? Or begging for her life?
Thus begins Yu-jin’s frantic three-day search to uncover what happened that night, and to finally learn the truth about himself and his family. A shocking and addictive psychological thriller, The Good Son explores the mysteries of mind and memory, and the twisted relationship between a mother and son, with incredible urgency.
Stars: 3.5/5 (ETA: Honestly, probably 4, but I was exhausted when I rated it, and now a couple of days later, I can admit it’s a 4)
When I first read the blurb for The Good Son, I assumed Yu-jin was the victim in this, that he was the one wronged by someone else to wake up one day, with his mother murdered.
Thing is, Yu-Jin would say I was right – it is not his fault that he murdered his mother.
In fact, nothing is ever his fault.
Welcome to hell
I know, I know, it’s a bit of a dramatic heading, but there are points in listening to this audiobook that I wondered why I was putting myself through something so dark and a mind so horrifying. It was a struggle to get through this, but I wanted to see how the book ended, as much as I hated that I did.
Yu-Jin wakes up one morning covered in blood, and then finds his mother dead. So begins a journey into his darkness and how his mother came to be murdered.
The power of this book is there is no obvious brutal violence in this, but as the book progresses, readers are introduced to the violence in Yu-Jin’s mind, that eventually we realise spilled out into reality. He is the only character in much of the book, with short conversations with Hae-jin, his foster brother, his suspicious aunt, and the police, so in the beginning, this is a bit of a slog to get through – until the narrative shifts gear and he begins to question just who he is.
We learn about his childhood, about his mother even through entries in her journal. The book left me feeling that there might have been something malevolent about her, but as the story progresses, I began to understand the lengths she had gone to protect him from himself, and protect the world from him and I realised, she made herself a prisoner as a result.
There was nothing left in life for her but her son – who she loved and feared.
Yu-Jin, of course, makes it clear over and over, he feels he was her prisoner.
It is strangely enough a coming of age story too
When the book begins, Yu-Jin does not understand what he is. Or why his mother is lying murdered at the bottom of the stairs.
His journey into his past, and their past is one that makes him face what he’s done, and forgotten – and relish it all when he truly understands himself.
There is an event that looms large in the book, one that set his mother and himself on this path that ended in her murder. I think readers will realise it easily enough as the book progresses, but it doesn’t matter for the power of the author, putting us in Yu-Jin’s mind as it happens is what resonates.
This is the very definition of a psychological thriller, encompassed in one character. Pacing in the beginning is an issue, but once it hits it’s stride, Yu-Jin will creep you the hell out.