cover image Diary of a Murderer

Diary of a Murderer

Young-Ha Kim, trans. from the Korean by Krys Lee. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $13.99 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-328-54542-8

This dark, innovative story collection from Kim (I Have the Right to Destroy Myself) is rife with grim plots and unreliable narrators. The lengthy title story, a first-person account of a former serial killer stricken with Alzheimer’s, is told in a series of notes the narrator writes to himself amid his concerns that another serial killer is stalking his adoptive daughter (whose mother he murdered). As the plot progresses and the killer decides he needs to make one last kill, characters swing into new identities—readers learn about the protagonist as they learn not to trust a thing. “The Origin of Life,” the weakest story in the collection, tells the story of an affair between one-time childhood sweethearts gone wrong. The somber “Missing Child” explores what might happen when an abducted child is returned to a family 10 years later. “The Writer,” the book’s strangest and funniest story, is a twist-filled account of a blocked novelist who is sent to New York by his new publisher and finds inspiration in an unlikely source. The collection, with its universally bleak stories, suffers from diminishing returns, but the title story is exceptional. The best stories are engrossing and disturbing, and are excellent showcases of Kim’s talent. (Apr.)