Series Review: Voice (OCN)

I haven’t talked about a kdrama (Korean drama/tv show) on this blog in a long time, it’s about time I did it again. So, enjoy this review!

파일-보이스_포스터If you know anything about me, you may have noticed that I really like crime dramas (and books). I’m not sure when this started or why I like them so much, but I do. Whenever a new I read about new kdramas, if they’re crime-related, I usually am interested. When I read the synopsis, I knew I wanted to watch it:

Two detectives teamed up to catch a serial killer who murdered their family. Moo Jin Hyuk’s life spiraled out of control after his wife was murdered. He starts to put himself together after he meets Kang Kwon Joo, US-graduated voice-profiler, who lost her police father to the same serial killer. They work together on the 112 (emergency telephone number) call center team.

Serial killer shows also intrigue me (ex: Gap Dong, Signal, and, to some extent, Bad Guys) and so that just sealed the deal for me. The who is, in fact, about Jin Hyuk and Kwon Joo’s hunt for the serial killer who killed their loved ones, but it’s actually more than just that. The serial killer storyline is what brings the two characters together and it’s the overarching theme that runs through each episode, but it’s not what brings the show together. Instead, that is left in the hands of the characters whole make up the call center and the detectives who solve the crimes the call sender sends their way.

Spoilers for the entire show (16 episodes) to follow.

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Jin Hyuk

Jin Hyuk’s characters is call “mad dog” (at least in the English subs on Dramafever) because he’s kind of nuts — but he also doggedly (lol) gets the job done. The show begins with Jin Hyuk and his team solving a crime and then celebrating a job well done while a woman is being stalked in the shadows. She calls someone, who doesn’t answer, and then she calls 112 (911) and Kwon Joo picks up. It turns out that the person on the phone is Jin Hyuk’s wife and he’s the one she called first. He was too bus, both catching the bad guy and then celebrating to answer the phone. His wife is killed and we suffer his guilt and grief alongside him.

We skip to the trial, a man’s arrested for the murder, but all is not as it seems. A woman, Kwon Joo (though we don’t know it’s her) arrives to testify. She explains that she heard the killer’s voice when he killed her father (a cop) and she knows the man they have on trial isn’t the murder. She asks them to play the recording of her conversation with the killer, but it’s gone — erased. The man gets off and Jin Hyuk goes crazy.

We skip three years and this is where the drama truly beings. Jin Hyuk is back to being a glorified traffic cop and Kwon Joo has just returned from life in the United States. She is assigned to the same police station where Jin Hyuk works, determined to find out who killed her father and Jin Hyuk’s wife. She forms what is called the Golden Time Team, which consists of the 112 call center and detectives who solve the crimes that come in. She insists that Jin Hyuk be part of the time and this is the first part of the drama of the show.

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Kwon Joo

Kwon Joo wants to work with Jin Hyuk, but he wants nothing to do with her. He reluctantly begins solving the crimes she throws at him and this is the basis for each episode, except the very last one. There are threads of the serial killer search throughout the show, but the central plot of each episode revolves around cases that come into the 112 line. Similar to a “case of the week” show (like Law & Order or Person of Interest), the Golden Time Team must save people before it’s too late. The beginning of each episode resolves the case of the previous episode and the second half introduces the next case, all mixed up with the search for serial killer.

Some of the cases are tied to the serial killer directly, some not so much. It is through these cases, and the frank honest between Kwon Joo and Jin Hyuk, that they grow to trust each other. Really, that Jin Hyuk learns to trust Kwon Joo. She convinces him that she’s not nuts — her story is that when she was younger, she was gravely ill and lost her sight for many years. During her period of blindness, she honed her hearing and now it is exceptionally good. This is the only true part of the show that is not quite believable, but without it, this show wouldn’t work. I decided, almost immediately, that I didn’t care if this part didn’t seem real, it works too well for me to care.

Once Jin Hyuk grudgingly trusts Kwon Joo, their hunt for the murderer of her father and his husband begins in earnest. While they solve crimes each week, we also slowly see them uncover the truth behind the murders. They uncover conspiracies, are thwarted at every turn and eventually discover a mole in the police.

Voice is a very dark drama. It’s actually darker than many kdramas I’ve seen, even the crime ones that I adore. The stories feel real, the anguish the victims and our cops feel is real, too. Even the emotions of the bad guys, with whom we do spend time, are very raw. There is back story, reasons for why people behave the way they do, and much of is heart breaking. For those of you who’ve read my reviews before, you know I like the “flower boy” detectives quite a bit and Shim Dae Shik is no exception. I adored him, but as with most of our characters, all is not what it seems.

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Jin Hyuk and Dae Shik

Another spoiler warning! Somewhere toward the middle of the show, maybe episode eight, I realized that they were going to make Dae Shik the mole. I didn’t want to be write, I loved his character, but unfortunately I was correct. He was the mole and his storyline just grew more and more upsetting.

Of course, we always knew how this drama was going to end, with the good guys bringing down the bad guys. The truth is that the way they got there was the interesting part. While not a perfect drama, it had all the elements I really enjoyed. Once I accepted how Kwon Joo’s hearing worked, everything else seemed more or less believable. It was a great drama, the acting was by far and away the best part of the show and is, to be honest, a reason to watch it.

I enjoyed Voice much more than I expected and am glad I watched it. Perhaps for my next kdrama I’ll go for something a bit more light hearted. Maybe.

 

 

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Book Review: Someone To Watch Over Me by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

22545458I’ve read most, if not all, of Yrsa Sigurðardóttir’s novels that have been translated into English. Most of her novels, save one, are about Icelandic lawyer Thóra Gudmundsdóttir and the cases she takes.

Someone To Watch Over Me is set in Iceland and the backdrop of the story is the financial crisis that destroyed much of Iceland’s economy. At the start of the novel, Thóra’s parents come to her because they’ve lost all their money and want to move in with her. Thóra’s house is already full, with her children, plus her grandchild and her boyfriend (Matthew, he’s German and we meet him early on in the series). But because Thóra loves her parents, she lets them move in.

One of the things I enjoy about Sigurðardóttir’s series is that she gives us not only the crime.case that Thóra is working on, but glimpses on Thóra’s life at home as well. The first couple of books in the series are the best, especially because Sigurðardóttir mixed the traditional crime novel with domestic life of a family and added lots of humor. Sadly, there’s not quite as much humor in the latter titles.

That’s not to say that Someone To Watch Over Me isn’t an entertaining or interesting read, because it is. Though it’s a slow burn and the reveal doesn’t come near the end — too close, really — the novel is interesting and once it gets going, Sigurðardóttir keeps the pace high.

The case that Thóra takes is an old one. She’s asked to reopen a murder and arson investigation that happened some years prior. A fired burned up a home for disabled adults and a young man with Down’s Syndrome, Jakob, has been imprisoned for it, though he was ruled as mentally incompetent (I believe). Instead of throwing facts at us or not doing her research, Sigurðardóttir makes sure that Thóra is aware of her shortcomings in knowledge about mentally and physically disabled persons in general as well as Down’s Syndrome specifically. Through Thóra, we’re given a brief history of disabilities in Iceland, including what has and hasn’t changed. This information is given both all in one go, and scattered throughout the conversations Thóra has with people involved in the case.

Throughout the novel, we’re given chapters that focus on different crimes, all of them related to Jakob’s case, but neither we, nor Thóra (when she discovers them) know how they’re related. We follow the story of a young mother and her family who believe they’re haunted by the ghost, a young man who runs a radio program, the psychopath who hired Thóra to look into Jakob’s case as well as other people as they come up in Thóra’s investigations.

Of course, Sigurðardóttir treats all her characters well and makes them interesting, but none of them have the depth that Thóra does, if only because she’s our main character. My biggest complaint is that Sigurðardóttir tends to include a bit of repetition within Thóra’s life; especially related to her parents, Matthew and her terrible secretary, Bella. These are problems in all of her novels, not just this one, and are easily overlooked because the case is so interesting.

In spite of the slow burn and my other minor complaints, I enjoyed Someone To Watch Over Me. The story — was Jakob innocent and if he is, who started the fire at the home — is compelling and the cast of characters who could have started the fire was long. Thóra’s investigations were interesting and I always enjoy the way she doggedly, but in her own way, manages to get the truth. She’s a smart woman and doesn’t let anything, even her relative lack computer skills, get her down.

Like her previous Thóra novels, Sigurðardóttir manages to balance Thóra’s home life with the cases she’s working on. I would recommend this book only if you’ve read the others, as some of it wouldn’t make sense. I can’t vouch that the information about disabilities and the disabled in Iceland is correct, but I have no reason to believe it’s not.

If you like crime novels and are looking for something different than the traditional police procedural, I would recommend the first of Sigurðardóttir’s Thóra Gudmundsdóttir novels: Last Rituals.