Genre: Historical Mystery Age Range: YA Star Rating: 4 stars Series: Standalone
Hwani’s family has never been the same since she and her younger sister went missing and were later found unconscious in the forest, near a gruesome crime scene. The only thing they remember: Their captor wore a painted-white mask.
To escape the haunting memories of this incident, the family flees their hometown. Years later, Detective Min—Hwani’s father—learns that thirteen girls have recently disappeared under similar circumstances, and so he returns to their hometown to investigate… only to vanish as well.
Determined to find her father and solve the case that tore their family apart, Hwani returns home to pick up the trail. As she digs into the secrets of the small village—and reconnects with her now estranged sister—Hwani comes to realize that the answer lies within her own buried memories of what happened in the forest all those years ago.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
THE FOREST OF STOLEN GIRLS is set centuries before THE SILENCE OF THE BONES, and is in a rural location rather than a metropolis, which helps distinguish the books. It is set in early 15th century Joseon (a kingdom ruling all of modern day Koreas) when it was vassal to the Ming Emperors.
This book did lack some of the atmosphere of the previous offering from June Hur. It’s set in and around a forest where girls have gone missing, so I’d have expected it to be more of an eerie forest. There wasn’t the same feeling of unease and dread hanging over the investigation. The cold case nature of the mystery, a year old, also removed some of the urgency – and did make the final twist that gave the ending some hope feel a little unrealistic.
I did, however, like that the ending (as Hwani’s sister pointed out) “felt a little like losing.” It’s not all suddenly right because the truth has been found. The truth doesn’t bring the dead back, and the consequences of the truth have hurt others.
It is a slow burn mystery. Rather than being full of clues and red herrings, there is very little information that Hwani has to slowly piece together, and without all the pieces, it’s a confusing array that doesn’t make sense.
Instead there was more of a focus on the sisters’ relationship. They’ve been apart for 5 years, and have very different opinions on their father, which causes friction – particularly when a suspect has become a mother to Hwani’s sister. They slowly come together and rekindle their relationship over the course of the investigation, risking their lives to protect each other.
I always read the acknowledgements first in a book – I’m not sure why, maybe because I like to see everyone who was involved, but I do. However, I really need to stop reading historical notes before the story. It explained the historical reality of the motive, which made the motive (though not the perpetrator) really obvious to me.
Read my reviews of other books by June Hur: