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.
Title: Good Son | Author: You-Jeong Jeong | Publisher: Penguin | Pages: 309 | ISBN: 9780143131953 | Publication date: 5th June 2018 | Source: Self-purchased
‘Good Son’ is a disturbingly effective Korean psychological thriller about a young psychopath and the events in his past that led him to kill. It’s the kind of book that sticks with you, largely thanks to its amoral but fascinating narrator. It isn’t often that you finish a book feeling like you’ve been given a window into an alien psyche, but I definitely found that with ‘Good Son’.
The book starts with the protagonist Yu-Jin waking to the smell of blood and finding that his mother has been brutally murdered in the apartment they share. Yu-Jin is an epileptic who suffers from blackouts and as a result has only a vague recollection of the events of the preceding night. The rest of the book is taken up with his attempts to find out what happened, as well as understanding events from his childhood.
The prose, perhaps thanks to the translation rather than the original text, is a little laboured at times, but it didn’t take me long to get used to it. It helps that it’s written in the first person, meaning I came to think of it as another facet of Yu-Jin’s unique personality. The matter of fact way he describes the effects of violence is chilling. He came to remind me a little of a killer from a Jim Thompson novel, or the serial murderer in Shane Stevens’ classic ‘By Reason of Insanity’. Disturbing as it is, his view of the world and the place of other people in it is convincingly psychopathic.
As the book unfolds, more and more details of the crime and events from Yu-Jin’s past are revealed, building up to a very believable portrait of remorseless insanity. At 300 pages, the book is short by modern standards and it’s all the more effective for its brevity. Shocking and punchy it demands to be read quickly and I found I couldn’t put it down.