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The Only Child

3.34  ·  Rating details ·  103 ratings  ·  57 reviews

An eerie and absorbing novel following a criminal psychologist who has discovered shocking and possibly dangerous connections between a serial killer and her stepdaughter

Criminal psychologist Seonkyeong receives an unexpected call one day. Yi Byeongdo, a serial killer whose gruesome murders shook the world, wants to be interviewed. Yi Byeongdo, who has refused to speak

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published February 11th 2020 by Ecco
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Average rating 3.34  · 
Rating details
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Feb 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Only Child is a translation of a Korean thriller featuring a criminal psychologist Seongkyeong who suddenly gets a phone call that a serial killer who has kept quiet for years suddenly wants to talk, but only to her.

The same day this inexperienced criminal psychologist interviews Yi Byeongdo, she is surprised to find that her husband has brought his daughter from a previous marriage to live with them after her grandparents die after a fire that Hayeong was the lone survivor of.

As the story
Sep 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edelweiss
Yi Byeongdo is a serial killer sitting on death row. He hasn’t said much to anyone about the murders he’s committed and the police are anxious to learn just how many murders there were. Unexpectedly, Yi Byeongdo has asked to be interviewed by a criminal psychologist by the name of Seonkyeong. Seonkyeong has no idea why Yi Byeongdo has singled her out as she does not know him.

Seonkyeong has just been surprised by her husband with the arrival of his eleven-year-old daughter from a previous
Alma Katsu
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For fans of TV’s Mindhunter, Mi-Ae Seo’s novel THE ONLY CHILD feels like true crime but is a tour de force of twisty fiction with a shocking ending you won’t be able to stop thinking about.

A criminal psychologist is sent to plumb the mind of an enigmatic serial killer, while at the same time unearthing the terrifying past of the stepdaughter who has just come to live with her. Family secrets abound in this fine novel of psychological suspense.
Liz | The Crime Girl
2.5 stars!
GUYS, I’m honestly so sad that I didn’t enjoy this book. I’d seen a ton of mixed reviews before going into it (which usually makes me more excited going into a book) but it really just didn’t work for me! THE ONLY CHILD follows a criminal psychologist who discovers a shocking and possibly dangerous connection between a serial killer and her husbands daughter.

𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐈 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞𝐝:
– I did really enjoy the fact the book dealt with a serial killer. That was something that was really interesting
This creeped me out so much! Finally a five-star read this year.
Jul 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer came down upon her head..."

Excuse me as this Beatles song now hums unstoppably in my head and contributes to me having nightmares for days to come.

What makes a serial killer?

The Only Child is a brutally detailed look into the childhood life of a serial killer, emphasizing the maternal and environmental aspect so meticulously you're going to have to sleep with the lights on.

The characters - including strong female lead Seonkyong, her stepdaughter and the
Paul Fulcher
"내가 비밀 한 가지 말해줄까요?"
"Do you want me to tell you a secret?"

The Only Child has been translated by Jung Yewon from 서 미애 (Mi-ae So)'s Korean language original 잘 자요 엄마.

Seonkyeong (선경) is a criminal psychiatrist, who went on a course at the FBI and was thereafter nicknamed Clarice Starling by her students. And in a case of life imitating art, as the novel opens, an infamous serial killer, Yi Byeongdo (이병도), one she has never met, says he will speak about his crimes, but only to her. And it transpires
Em Stevens
I read an ARC, so it is hard to tell how much of the choppy writing is translation style and how much is that it's still in the editing process.

It was hard for me to connect with the main character. If I'd understood more of her career motivations, or more of her relationship to her husband, maybe then I could justify the naivete and slow realizations of what was coming into play.

This was sent with a note that said it was like "Silence of the Lambs" but the serial killer wasn't creepy or
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Oh boy! This was not a good book...

Firstly, the writing wasn't very good. I don't know if that's because it wasn't written well or because this is a Korean translation and the translation was poor

Secondly, its essentially just a Korean version of silence of the lambs. It even referred to silence of the lambs on mutiple occasions. I didn't really see the point in it

I saw the ending coming too. I was expecting some big twist but it was very obvious where the book was going.

There was also some
PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps
***Thanks to NetGalley for providing me a complimentary copy of THE ONLY CHILD by Mi-ae Seo in exchange for my honest review.***

A criminal psychiatrist becomes alarmed with the parallels between the serial killer she’s interviewing and her own stepdaughter, who recently came to live with the family.

Reminiscent of BABY TEETH and THE BAD SEED, THE ONLY CHILD is a great premise for a psychological thriller. I enjoyed the details of the story more than the actual book. Reading Mi-ae See’s translated
Jan 07, 2020 marked it as dnf  ·  review of another edition
I'm setting this one aside. I was really looking forward to it, but the story has not caught my attention, and the translation feels very stilted.
Sep 26, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I received am ARC of this book from NetGalley, all thoughts and opinions are my open. I ended up disliking by this book from the first chapter. The writing was poorly done, being too wordy and making the story drag. A lot of the storyline was borrowed from Silence of the Lambs, and I found the plot to be enormously predictable. On top of that, I could my get myself to root for any of the characters, and the villain the main character visits was terribly annoying and his story went absolutely ...more
Jamie Canaves
At the center of a venn diagram with Natsuo Kirino, Kanae Minato, Silence of the Lambs, and The Bad Child is Mi-ae Seo’s upcoming novel The Only Child! I read it in two sittings and it made me angry that more crime novels aren’t translated. It asks the question of nurture vs nature when a dark criminal mind meets a kind, optimistic, criminal psychologist. (TW child abuse/ animal cruelty/ past suicide)

--from Book Riot's Unusual Suspects newsletter:
Dec 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Crime and Thriller lovers
I received a free advanced reader’s eproof copy of The Only Child from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, publisher, and Netgalley!

As Seonkyeong’s first semester teaching criminal psychology at a university comes to an end, she receives an unexpected phone call from the director of the Association of Criminal Psychology. Yi Byeongdo, a notorious serial killer imprisoned for the murder of 13 plus women, personally requests to an interview with Seonkyeong. This
Caecilia Saori
Since Goodreads only allows for either 3 OR 4 stars, going rather for a 3 (based on comparison with Lock Every Door which I have enjoyed a tad more)
Consider this one a 3 1/2 stars from me.

Plot summary & my thoughts:

Criminal psychologist Seonkyeong is being asked to interview a serial killer, whose murders have shocked the nation, but who has not spoken since being caught. At almost the same time, her husband brings home Hayeong, his daughter from the previous marriage - after a fire has
Jan 21, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
When reading a translated book you like you probably don't give much thought to the original version, which is why I don't like blaming the translator when I don't enjoy a novel. In this case, I have to question the English translation. The text is repetitive to the extreme and the dialogues sound strange (for instance, everybody asks if they can get their visitors something "cold" to drink -every single time they greet someone). I also wasn't sure if some of the events seem nonsensical to ...more
Cindy Wilkerson

I think this one was lost in translation.
Translated from Korean, I found the writing to be so stilted, and it took paragraphs to explain something that could be explained in one sentence. The author does not trust that the reader knows anything. There were times this book felt like a text book, where things were told instead of shown.
For example:

”Didn’t you come to the criminal psychology seminar held at the National Forensic Service last winter?” Sergeant Yu asked.
“Yes, I
Pearline Ho
Twist at the end.

Was puzzled as to how the stories of Hayeong, the child and the murderer Byeongdo will intersect. Well they don't really, there isn't much lore to it. They just met in a different way than I expected.

Fast read, but the writing was a little choppy and bland.

Am I the only one who feels much more for the murder of well an animal versus that of a human?
Nov 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fucking fantastic!
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc-reviews
Don't get hung up on the initial similarities to Silence of Lambs or what feels predictable; it's a page turner.
Kayla TM
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: giveaways
One night, a fire takes the life of a couple, but something doesn’t seem right. The couple died tucked in their bed, while their granddaughter made it from the house safe and sound. Seonkyeong, a criminal psychologist, is given the opportunity to interview the serial killer Yi Byeongdo, who is thought to have murdered more people than he has been charged with. The night after the first interview, Seonkyeong finds her husband’s daughter, Hayeong, has come to live with them after the fire. Soon ...more
Jenn Adams
Received an eARC from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review

I decided to read this in the time period leading up to Halloween hoping that I would get a mind-bending psychological thriller and now that I've finished... meh.

The main character is supposedly an expert in criminal psychology, but you wouldn't really know it from her actions and mindset in the story. The story was generally a bit disjointed and the two parts did not end up being entwined the way I had anticipated. Now, that's not
Morgan Schulman
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reader-s-copy
I received an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review

I was not expecting that at all- got me sleeping with one eye open and watching my kids a little differently.

Definitely different and super creepy, but worth it. Don’t want to say more and spoil, if you enjoy creepy twisted mess you'll Love this
Morgan Schulman
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I received an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review

I was not expecting that at all- got me sleeping with one eye open and watching my kids a little differently.

Definitely different and super creepy, but worth it. Don’t want to say more and spoil, if you enjoy creepy twisted mess you'll Love this
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hannibal Lector, move over..... for the bad seed, the little girl serial killer of The Only Child. Fast paced, page turning... I could not put it down until I finished - thank God there is a sequel !
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-thriller
Uh, holy crap. This book is bonkers! That ending!

A seriously messed up psychological thriller that begs the questions: what makes a killer?
If you think kids are little monsters in cherubim form, this is the book that might speak to you. The premise is simple. A criminal psychologist, Seonkyeong, is minding her own business when suddenly two events collide with her life: a convicted serial killer demands to speak with her, and her husband’s daughter from a previous marriage comes to live under her roof. Both individuals seem sinister but what harm can they do to Seonkyeong, really? One is behind bars, and the other is a traumatised ...more
Kyle Wendy Skultety (
Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

THE ONLY CHILD is a very dark book that explores the mind of a fictional serial killer while contrasting his behavior with Hayeong, the main character’s stepdaughter. Seonkyeong is a criminal psychologist who is summoned to prison to interview the notorious killer Yi Byeongdo. As she delves deeper into his mind through his stories, she notices how his mannerisms mirror that of 11-year-old Hayeong, who has recently come to live with her and her husband after a
Sharon Mensing
It seems as though this book could have taken place in any location, so the Asian perspective comes through only in the names of the characters. Because the locale was not emphasized, I often created an Americanized vision in my head and was sent off kilter when the names occurred. Nonetheless, I was fully engaged in the narrative and found the three main characters highly compelling. Seonkyeong, a criminal psychologist, becomes the de facto “mother” for Hayeong and the interviewer of serial ...more
Diane Hernandez
Feb 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley
Can serial killers be identified while still children? A new Korean thriller, The Only Child, attempts to answer that question by merging a family drama with a jailed serial killer’s tale.

Beginning with a police procedural investigating a series of arsons, the book then tells the first-person tale of a child wandering unhurt at the scene of the fifth fire. When her grandparents are found dead in their bed, she is placed in her father’s home. Her abusive mother is dead and she has nowhere else to
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