The Good Son by You-Jeong Jeong (Penguin Books)

This psychological mystery and suspense novel by Korean author You-Jeong Jeong is one of the most disturbing books I've read in quite a while. The story starts with twenty-six-year-old Yu-jin waking up to the smell of blood. He has been off his medication and thinks he may have passed out after having an epileptic seizure. But that smell of blood...

He is also covered in what he thinks is mud, his clothes are crusty, and his hair is matted. He wonders if he fell in the mud on the way home the night before.  As he slowly tries to remember the details of what happened, the phone rings. It is Hae-jin, his good friend and adopted brother. Hae-jin asks about their mother who had called Hae-jin in the middle of the night. This is so out of character for her that it makes Yu-jin a bit worried. He seems to recall his mother calling his name but wonders was she calling for help? Or was she begging for her life?

He thought he had heard the voice of his brother as well. Yu-jin had a brother named Yu-min. When they were children, they would play a game called “Survival” with their BB guns that shot small plastic pellets. They would shoot each other and the one who got hit the most would win. He remembers a time when he almost lost his BB gun along the bridge of a railway track. He bumped his elbow and dropped his gun. At the same time he could see the train coming towards him, but he didn't want to lose his gun and ran back for it. Although he managed to get his gun, his uniform was torn and his face covered in dirt. He remembers how Yu-Min covered for him at school and he wishes Yu-min were here now to help him. However Yu-min has been dead for a long time.

Yu-jin comes to realize that his clothes and his body aren't covered in mud--he’s covered in blood! He knows he has to deal with the situation himself. He is still unsure of what happened. But he finally has the strength to check on his mother. He finds her lying on the floor with her throat cut from ear to ear. The shock is overwhelming. What to do now? He believes that maybe he should call the police. He think she may have tried to fight off a burglar in the night. He dials the emergency number only to come to realize what the police would think--“a dead woman with her throat cut, lying in a pool of blood next to her dazed, bloodied son.”

This is only the beginning of the mystery as we learn of another murder. A young woman was found with her throat cut, dumped into the sea. She was found in an area where Yu-jin would run at night.

The deeper you read, the deeper you are pulled into the mind of Yu-jin. More mysteries begin to unfold. Why was Hae-jin adopted? Exactly how did Yu-jin's brother Yu-min and his father die? And if he doesn't have epilepsy, what is he suffering from? Fast-paced and at times more graphic than any slasher film, this book makes it impossible for you to do anything more than read it to get to the bottom of its mystery.~Ernie Hoyt