It is an extraordinary thriller whose heroine is an eighteen-year-old girl named Min Hwani. Hwani is the son of the famous Inspector Min, considered by some to be the best sleuth in the Kingdom of Korea, and when we meet him, he is on the open sea, aboard a junk bound for the island of Jeju, where he hopes to solve the mystery that is bothering him.
“Thick fog enveloped our red pine boat as if hiding from me the secrets of a forbidden land. But I still remembered the windy island located a thousand li south of the peninsula, an island with rugged coastlines and prairies dotted with black lava stone huts against a backdrop of leafy peaks and veils of mist.Somewhere in the middle of this temple of rock and wind called Jeju, between the ancestral forest of Gotjawal and the cloud-rimmed crater of Mount Halla, my father disappeared.”
It’s been a year since her father went missing, and the police just called off the search and closed the case, declaring him dead. But Hwani does not intend to stick to these conclusions: he is convinced that his father is alive and is determined to find his trace.
He has clues. First, his father’s diary, a notebook with burnt pages sent to him by a stranger named Boksun, and containing several notes, including a list of first names. And then, the information the police gave him:
“I don’t know anything except what Commander Ki told me: Dad went to Jeju to investigate the disappearance of thirteen girls.”
So her father disappears while investigating the disappearances… She searches for him alone?
In fact, he hopes to find help from his younger sister, Maewol, who still lives in Jeju, the village where they grew up. When she was ten years old, so five years ago, Maewol became the village sorcerer’s apprentice, and in these five years the two sisters did not see each other again. When Hwani arrived at the shaman’s house, after several hours of walking in the hills, it was the old woman who received him, and, at first, she brought him important information:
“– Did Commander Ki tell you about the man in the white mask?
I raised an eyebrow.
– A white mask?
– A witness claims to have seen a man wearing a white mask abduct one of the little girls.
I sat down, my back and shoulders suddenly tensed. Those words resonated with me.
– The Forest Incident.
The shaman nodded.
“Your father linked the case of the missing thirteen to the jungle incident you and your brother were involved in five years ago.”
Hwani only learned of this incident from what he was told afterwards: he was told that they got lost in the forest with his sister and that their father found them, unconscious, near the corpse of a young woman. Hwani has no memory of this incident, but Maewol, his brother, says he saw a man wearing a white mask, armed with a knife, running away from the woods.
And this is just the beginning! That night, after a stormy reunion between the two sisters, the villagers come to fetch the shaman because the body of one of the missing people has been discovered in the forest. Hwani accompanies Maewol to the scene of the tragedy, and that’s where the investigation really begins.
What did you like about this book?
First, the plot, which immediately piqued our interest and was very well done, with suspense and lots of twists and turns. The pace of the investigation is relatively slow, without being boring; there is a good balance between action scenes and moments of reflection. All of this takes place in an incredible setting of mists, meadows and rocks, whether you travel or on a pony – it’s / stunning. A bit like Scotland. One thinks of the novels of the Victorian era, especially the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, on which, moreover, the author claims influence.
But we are in Korea during the Joseon period, in the 15th century, and this historical aspect is also very interesting: through a whole gallery of characters, in very elegant costumes, we discover the society of that time, the lifestyles, the corruption of the powerful and the threat that hangs over all the girls.
And besides the fact that it is a really well-written and translated novel, it describes the relationship between two brothers with great sensitivity, and it is an opportunity to deal with many topics such as family conflicts , the struggle between reason and instinct, the role of women and even the purpose of life.