Kirkus Review of Skin Deep

The second review is in, and it’s also good!

Woo strikes out in a wholly new direction with this soft-boiled debut mystery about a private eye’s search for a frenemy’s missing daughter.

On the day she’s celebrating her second anniversary with the Ed Baker Investigative Agency, Korean American adoptee Siobhan O’Brien, nee Kim Shee-Bong, finds her boss unexpectedly dead, leaving her the sole proprietor of a business worth maybe $20,000 on a good day. Will Siobhan, an ex-reporter of 40, shut the place down? Not if pushy Josie Sykes, the younger sister of Siobhan’s late friend Marlene, has anything to say about it. Josie’s daughter, Penelope Hae Jun Sykes, who, like Siobhan, was adopted, has vanished from Llewellyn College, where she was a first-year student. The members of the Womyn of Llewellyn, who took her in and maybe did a number on her, insist that she’s fled the emotional abuse of her overbearing mother and that they don’t have to answer to her. Siobhan, who interviewed Llewellyn president Vera Wheeler shortly after her appointment, finds that an awful lot has changed on campus in the five years since. Wheeler seems determined to admit no one but beauty queens and make over the college into a temple of state-of-the-art cosmetology. Her plans have put her at odds with the Krishna Center in nearby Hawthorne, New York, where Penny’s allegedly hunkered down—or maybe, as Siobhan gradually learns when she goes undercover at Llewellyn and Krishna as a reporter, they haven’t after all. Woo’s vision of the Stepford College is logistically shaky but metaphorically resonant.

The prize is a heroine who’s by turns wide-eyed, gravely amused, susceptible, and plenty cool enough for an encore.

Kirkus Reviews – https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/sung-j-woo/skin-deep-woo/

Publishers Weekly Review of Skin Deep

The first review of Skin Deep is in, and I’m grateful it’s a good one!

This winning series launch from Woo (Love Love) introduces PI Siobhan O’Brien, a 40-year-old American of Korean descent who was adopted in infancy by an Irish father and a Norwegian mother. After two years working as an operative at the Ed Baker Investigative Agency in Athena, N.Y., Siobhan, to her surprise, inherits the agency when her boss has a fatal heart attack. Her first client as the new owner is Josie Sykes, the white sister of a deceased childhood friend and fellow Korean adoptee. Josie’s 18-year-old adopted Korean daughter, Penny, is missing and was last seen at Llewellyn College. Siobhan enrolls in a program for older students and soon becomes aware of the danger that lurks on Llewellyn’s seemingly placid campus. Siobhan holds her own as she contends with deadly doings at a yoga center, menacing college initiations, and bizarre researchers studying “the science of beauty.” Woo perceptively explores the theme of image and personal identity throughout. Readers will look forward to seeing more of the beguiling Siobhan.

Publishers Weekly

Dream: A Drive, a Divide, a Dog

I’m in my car, driving on a narrow grassy plain, when another car approaches. There’s no way we can get by each other without crashing, so I turn the wheel and move off to the right as far as possible. But this leaves my car in an untenable position, to the right of a gulley, which I never saw before. The farther I drive, the closer I come to the edge; basically, my car is going to fall in if I keep going.

So I get out of the car. And there’s some kind of a wild animal who bites my finger, not enough to draw blood but enough to make an indentation into my skin. I hurl a piece of fruit, and the animal chases after it. But I know it’ll be back.

I must make it to the other side of the ditch. I have to climb (don’t ask — it’s a dream, after all). So I climb, on my hands and knees, and my fingers grab onto what feels like tight plastic grocery bags, stretched because inside contains coils upon coils of Christmas tree lights.

I cross over. And I look across the divide, and instead of my car, it’s Ginny, my German shepherd dog. She’s pacing back and forth, agitated that she’s over there and I’m over here. And before I can scream, “No, you’re too old!” Ginny leaps — and somehow she makes it. I catch her. I feel her weight as her body collides into mine, but then I don’t, as if I’ve absorbed her somehow.

And then I wake up.

Commentary: Yesterday my wife and I were driving on Lincoln Road, and a car was indeed coming down and there’s a part where it can be kind of tight. Later on, we saw a big dog sticking its head out of another car, enjoying the winter air. Last night we saw the Taylor Swift documentary on Netflix (highly recommended) and she’s got cats; the bite from the dream animal was very much a cat bite, playfully painful. It’s been a few weeks since I put them all away, but I do indeed store Christmas lights in plastic grocery bags. And it’s been almost a month since our dog of almost fifteen years died.

The last part of the dream is a bit on the nose, isn’t it? What I find most fascinating about Ginny’s leap is that I had no clue she was going to do that. Even though it’s my dream and I thought it up, it was a complete surprise. What a gift. Thank you, dream.