Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Diary of a Murderer: And Other Stories by Young-Ha Kim

I didn't realize that this was an anthology of short stories when I applied for the ARC, I was so taken with the title story: a tale about an old serial killer with a degenerative brain disease who believes his daughter is dating another serial killer. I mean, how awesome does that sound? Then I got the book and realized there were other stories in here, too. I call that a bonus.

Diary of a Murderer: ☆☆☆☆

It's the title story, and what we're all here for. As I said, the narrator is a serial killer who was active until he was about 45 or so. Then he developed Alzheimer's and started to lose his whole killing drive. His daughter is actually the daughter of one of his victims, who he has raised himself, and he cares about her as much as he cares about anything-- which is why he is enraged when his daughter begins seeing the man he suspects is a rival serial killer setting up shop in the same town. Frantic, he begins to write down his thoughts in journals, and record instructions to himself on a device he wears around his neck. He must save his daughter by beating the killer at his own game-- before he forgets both the man and the mission.

This was such a good story. The pacing is excellent and the translator did an amazing job. Sometimes translations can read as clunky, but this was smooth and felt like it was written in native English. Also, there's an amazing twist that I did not see coming, and the best part of all is, it's foreshadowed, so it doesn't even come out of nowhere. Those are the best kinds of twists, the ones where if you read back and look for the clues, you think to yourself, "Aha!" This was an "Aha!" Great story.

The Origin of Life:

Wasn't a fan of this one. It was boring and I skimmed it. Next.

Missing Child: ☆☆☆☆

I honestly think I liked this one as much as the title story. A couple has their child kidnapped at a grocery store and their life has fallen apart. The husband is bitter and depressed and the wife has come down with schizophrenia. They're reunited with their child when his kidnapper ends her life and leads a note behind as a confession to what she's done. The reunion is painful, though, because the kid now considers his kidnapper his true parent and his new guardians as interlopers.

This one was emotionally painful and did not have a happy ending (well, sort of), but it worked. The parents were flawed and so was the kid, and nobody was really a "good" character. It actually reminded me a bit of Herman Koch's THE DINNER in that it shows the way some people with mental illnesses can create toxic environments for their children and families, and how nuture can sometimes triumph over nature, no matter how much we wish otherwise.

The Writer: ☆☆½

This is a story of a writer who is working on his new book. He has an affair, but it does not go as he expects. I felt like this story was dull. The beginning of it had a lot of promise, but after Missing Child and Diary of a Murderer, my expectations were high and this story kind of tanked.

I just added up my ratings and averaged them out, which apparently means that this book is a 2.8. I feel like that is unfair to the 4-star stories, though, which were especially good, so I am going to bump my final rating up to a 3-stars. Honestly, this book is worth buying for the first story alone, which is the longest of the bunch, comprising half of the page count. It's so, so worth it.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!

3 out of 5 stars

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