From the Korean Queen of Crime
You-jeong Jeong's million selling Korean crime thriller The Good Son has now been translated for the English speaking market having been a hit both in Asia and across Europe. With Jeong already carrying the 'Queen of crime' moniker you might be wondering what all the fuss is about.
The Good Son begins with the titular good son, Yu-Jin, waking up at home in Incheon covered in blood. The recent past is a complete blur but with a dead body in the living room there is some serious clearing up to be done. This is less a 'who done it' than a 'why done it' as the book is in many ways the profile of a young psychopath but to leave it at that would be reductive.
What Jeong does really well is explore the relationship between Yu-Jin and his over-bearing mother and 'can do no wrong' adopted brother. We are teased with insight as Jeong drip feeds the backstory until we understand for ourselves why a smart, swim champion teen becomes a prescription drug addicted killer.
The translation by Chi-Young Kim is sound but there are a couple of places where The Good Son feels a little too international in style, the Vangelis soundtrack and the references to The Bucket List are examples. These banal references may or may not be in the original Korean text but a packing in contemporary Korean cultural references would have been a opportunity to build a more distinct oeuvre.
A few misgivings aside this is a brilliant page turner for crime fans. 4
The Good Son by You-jeong Jeong, translated by Chi-Young Kim, published by Little Brown 320 pages