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Book Review: 이웃이 같은 사람들 by KIM Jae-hui

About the book

Title: 이웃이 같은 사람들
Author: KIM Jae-hui 김재희
Published by 시송사

KIM Jae-hui is one of the most famous authors of crime fiction in Korea and the creator of detective LEE Sang. 이웃이 같은 사람들 is the second volume of the series “Profiler KIM Seong-ho” (프로파일러 김성호 시리즈).

Setting

The police are investigating the murder of a teenager found in a discarded fridge.

Review: A realistic investigation, but not what I was expecting.

To be honest, I didn’t quite enjoy reading 이웃이 같은 사람들. I found the story appealing enough to want to read it until the end, but I didn’t feel quite involved in the characters.

First of all, I think that KIM Jae-hui’s novels might be more on the literary side than most detective/police novels so if you are looking for something strictly belonging to genre fiction, this might not be the best choice. Also, if you are learning Korean and looking for an easy novel to start reading in Korean, 이웃이 같은 사람들 is definitely not the novel you are looking for.

I found that the police investigation was very realistic and some aspects were described with a lot of details which showed that the author must have made serious research before writing her book. But I would also say that, as a reader of genre fiction, I was not expecting to learn in so many details how forensics work for example.

Also, genre fiction will usually focus on one or two police officers, and while it is obvious that a whole team is working in the background, there is no need to know them all by name. In 이웃이 같은 사람들, there are a lot of police officers, they are all introduced by name, but not really described. After a while, I found it hard to remember who was who and what were the characteristics and personality of each character.

Another thing that completely puzzled me in this novel is the whole neighbour thing. The neighbours are in the title of the book, and several scenes look like we are going to deal with a novel that involves neighbours, but all these scenes do not really bring anything to the story. The whole investigation focuses on something else, and I don’t understand what was the point of all the scenes relative to the neighbours. I found the title and the wrapping band saying “네 이웃을 조심하라” to be misleading: this is not what the novel is about.

Finally, I was not convinced by the profiler KIM Seong-ho. I could not see what his being a “profiler” brought to the investigation. But here again, it might come from the novel being more on the realistic side. Profilers in real life are certainly different from what we see in films and drama! I must also add that I haven’t read the first book of the series, so maybe we learn more about Seong-ho in this first novel?

My review might be a little severe, but it is just my opinion. You will certainly enjoy reading 이웃이 같은 사람들 if you are looking for a novel that describes a police investigation in a realistic way, and if you want to learn more about Korea’s private middle school or school bullying, which is one of the main topics of the novel.

Otherwise, I would rather recommend reading 경성 탐정 이상, also written by KIM Jae-hui. It has an interesting historical background and well-depicted characters that you are not likely to forget! 

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