Kim Byeongsu murdered dozens of people over three decades, driven by nothing more than perfectionism, but he hasn’t killed for 25 years. Now, suffering from Alzheimer’s, he believes that the fiancé of his beloved daughter Eunhui (whose mother Kim killed) is going to murder her — but not if Kim can kill him first. It is a promising scenario, but it slowly evaporates in confusion and there is something sterile and charmless about it. The other two shorter pieces, one about childhood sweethearts and domestic violence, the other featuring a beleaguered writer, feel like makeweights.
Calamity: The Many Lives of Calamity Jane
"as Karen Jones sets out dismayingly early in her book, the only things that the real-life ‘Calamity Jane’ can with confidence be said to have in common with her legend is that she wore trousers, swore like a navvy and was pissed all the time..."
— The Spectator
Kim employs a wry, detached style throughout this collection. There’s much dark humour, which spills into absurd comedy in his final tale “The Writer”, an erotic fable set in the publishing business. At times it all seems a bit too coldly ironic, but there are flashes of emotion behind the deadpan wit. In “Missing Child” a boy recovering from a kidnapping is unable to break the maternal attachment he has for his female abductor. Emotional displacement is the heart of the matter and Kim reminds us of the peril, in our personal lives as well as in society at large, of forgetting our history.