30 July 2020, The Tablet

Terrified and awestruck


A.N. Wilson basks in summer crime

You-Jeong Jeong’s Seven Years of Darkness (Little, Brown, £14.99; Tablet price £13.49) has the Conradian theme of a human life being wrecked by a single disastrous moral mistake. Three men, one her father, are obsessed by the death of a young girl, whose body was fished out of a reservoir in a remote South Korean village seven years ago. The security guard, who has been condemned to death for the killing, made the desperate decision to open the floodgates of the reservoir and destroy all habitation for miles around. The chief narrative intelligence of the book is his son, Sowon, who, in the unforgettable opening pages, carries around the albatross burden of his father’s guilt. But was he guilty? And what really happened on that dark, misty night? And why was the girl wearing make-up and dressed in her mother’s white silk blouse? As the narrative hurtles to an enlightening, we are both terrified and awestruck. Terrific stuff. It is framed as a thriller, with that winning ingredient, a mad dentist.

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