Book Review: The Only Child

THE ONLY CHILD | Mi-ae Seo
02.11.2020 | Ecco
Rating: 4/5 stars

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Seonkyeong, a criminal psychologist, has received an unexpected phone call. It seems serial killer, Yi Byeongdo, known for a series of gruesome murders that shocked the world, would like to be interviewed. He feels that the time has finally come for him to share his story and the only person he is willing to tell is Seonkyeong. Out of curiosity she agrees to meet.

On that same day Hayeong, her husband’s eleven-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, shows up at their door. Her grandparents have passed away after dying in a house fire that Hayeong narrowly escaped. As Seonkyeong works to make Hayeong feel at home she starts to discover that the young girl is prone to strange behavior. Seonkyeong starts to see worrisome similarities between the serial killer and her stepdaughter, but is it all in her imagination?

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The minute I read the premise for THE ONLY CHILD I knew that I wanted this book in my reading lineup. I absolutely love stories that focus on criminal psychologists, serial killers, and children, so when they’ve all been mixed together it sounds like the perfect combination. As publication day got closer and closer I started to see a series of mixed reviews for this book, which made me hesitate to pick it up. Most of the reviews pointed to the pace of the story and lack of action as a source of their dislike, so I opted to consume this book via audio in an attempt to mitigate that issue. The result? I absolutely loved this story!

The book opens with the introduction to two events, Seonkyeong meeting with serial killer, Yi Byeongdo, and Hayeong losing her grandparents. At first I had no idea where the author was planning to connect these two timelines together, but after about 100 or so pages I started to find my groove between the two and their merger. Once the storylines joined into one, with Seonkyeong walking the reader through her daily life they started to make more sense. I think unfortunately that this delay in connection will scare off a few readers, but I do think pushing through in this book is worth it. 

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The pacing, which I mentioned earlier, is certainly slower than most books being published in the crime fiction genre these days. I think it’s important to point out that this is a translated work by a Korean author. Two years ago I read THE GOOD SON by You-Jeong Jeong and noticed that this book was much slower in pace and much like THE ONLY CHILD, instead of thrills, the author wrote more in the style of a character study. 

If you’re curious about THE ONLY CHILD, but want to use some caution on if you’ll love this one, I cannot recommend the audiobook enough. Greta Jung truly brings the characters and story to life through her narration. I also highly recommend starting this book with the mindset that this is not a thriller and a suspenseful character study.


This book is available to buy from: Amazon | Book Depository

A huge thank you to Ecco Books for sending me a free copy of this book!

Disclosure: What Jess Reads is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way influences my opinion of the above book.

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