In the summer of 2002, when Korea is abuzz over hosting the FIFA World Cup, nineteen-year-old Kim Hae-on is killed in what becomes known as the High School Beauty Murder. Two suspects quickly emerge: rich kid Shin Jeongjun, whose car Hae-on was last seen in, and delivery boy Han Manu, who witnesses Hae-on in the passenger seat of Jeongjun’s car just a few hours before her death. But when Jeongjun’s alibi turns out to be solid, and no evidence can be pinned on Manu, the case goes cold.
Seventeen years pass without any resolution for those who knew and loved Hae-on, and the grief and uncertainty take a cruel toll on her younger sister, Da-on, in particular. Unable to move on with her life, Da-on tries in her own twisted way to recover some of what she’s lost, ultimately setting out to find the truth of what happened.
Told at different points in time from the perspectives of Da-on and two of Hae-on’s classmates, Lemon loosely follows the structure of a detective novel. But finding the perpetrator is not the main objective here. Instead, the work explores grief and trauma, raising important questions about guilt, retribution, and the meaning of death and life.
Lemon is a quick, interesting and admittedly a little confusing read.
The chapters jump between different characters’ points of view, but all are tied to the central theme: of the murder of Hae-on, sister of Da-on. The first chapter focuses on the police interview and we then move between various characters including Da-on, a classmate of Da-on, and the fiancé of the suspect, plus various others.
I found it very difficult to work out which person was narrating; in some cases I had to go back and read the chapter twice. The sections felt quite disjointed because they covered very different elements and timeframes, so I’m not sure I completely grasped what was going on. It almost felt like it was a series of fragmented essays on various subjects – eg. Mental health; grief; family problems – rather than a cohesive novel about a murder.
However, I do wonder if some elements of this book just went over my head. I did enjoy the switch between people in Hae-on’s community, and the way it is written is engaging – I could imagine the grief running through various characters, which felt like the central topic on which this book is based, rather than any kind of murder mystery.
I’m sure there was a lot to this novel that went over my head a little, but I quite enjoyed it nevertheless.
Many thanks to Love Reading UK for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest review.