Review: The Good Son by You-jeong Jeong

The Good Son
by You-jeong Jeong
Translated from Korean by Chi-Young Kim

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.

(cover image and synopsis lifted from Goodreads)

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication date: June 5th 2018 (first published May 2016)
Source/Format: eARC/Netgalley
Purchase links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | Book Depository
My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts:
Well, the blurb says the book is “The Talented Mr. Ripley” meets “The Bad Seed”. I haven’t watched both films so I have zero clue whatsoever in that aspect. The blurb also says the author is Korea’s Stephen King. Now, we’re talking. But it’s not the Stephen King part that caught my attention, as I have yet to read any of his books. *hides* It’s actually the part that the book is translated to English from Korean that piqued my interest. Because like so many Filipinos, I am a prolific fan of anything Korean. And the author seems to know that piece of info very well, as our country gets a shoutout in the book, hah! Anyway, this translated book is like the much needed subtitles on my kdrama.

Moving on about the book itself. The book is about Yu-jin who is a full-grown man with a 9PM curfew. He is living with his mom and older brother in a decent duplex in a building near a sea wall. His mom is more strict to him than to his older brother because Yu-jin is epileptic. At the beginning of the book, he is laying still on his bed in the early hours of the morning, having unsettling hallucinations from prolonged getting off from his meds, bracing himself from a severe bout of seizures. Why would he intentionally stop taking his seizure meds, you ask? It’s his weird way of getting floaty and free; kinda getting high. Whenever he is off his drugs, he reaches a heightened reality; his senses become acute. But then he is interrupted by a call from his brother who is away for work. Their mom uncharacteristically left a missed call in the middle of the night, so he wants to check if everything’s okay back at home. As it turns out, everything’s not okay. Yu-jin soon discovers their mother downstairs, lying dead on her own pool of blood. He has to figure out who is the murderer before his older brother returns home.

Interestingly enough, it’s only about 20% through the book when the identity of the killer is revealed. The book is unique for me because it focused on the why instead of the who. It explored what can lead a supposedly upstanding citizen commit such a horrible act. It lets the reader take a close look in the mind of an often one-dimensionally vilified character; a personality boxed inside its label. The book made the readers realize that this type of person interprets things differently as we do. Acts of love and concern could be interpreted as deception and betrayal. And despite distorted perceptions, this person is often alone and maybe feeling lonely, too. I would not call it empathy per se but I think I understood this type of character a bit better.

If you thought that the book has nothing going on after the whodunit reveal, well you better brace yourself. There are flashbacks. There are diary entries. There are confrontations. But for me, the book is strongest when the killer is in introspection, taking a deep look in the mirror, asking the question, “Who am I?” And then after answering that question, the book presents a point of crossroads for the killer asking, “Who will you be?” The book is very much character-driven in a chilling way. Like I said, the suspense is in the unfolding of the why and what the killer would do upon discovering the horrifying truth.

So if you are also an anything-Korean fan and loves mystery-thrillers, read this book is what I’m saying. Having said all that, I have one simple request. Please, can someone from the Korean film-making industry adapt this book into a movie? Meanwhile, while we wait for such request be granted, I will leave you with a few Korean mystery-thriller film recommendations. Enjoy!

The Truth Beneath
The Truth Beneath (2016)

Madonna (2015) 

Monster (2014)

Hwayi: A Monster Boy (2013)

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