by Mariko Koike, translated by Deborah Boliver Boehm
Thomas Dunne Books
October 11, 2016
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A terrifying tale of a young family who move into an apartment building next to a graveyard and the horrors that are unleashed upon them.
One of the most popular writers working in Japan today, Mariko Koike is a recognized master of detective fiction and horror writing. Known in particular for her hybrid works that blend these styles with elements of romance, The Graveyard Apartment is arguably Koike’s masterpiece. Originally published in Japan in 1986, Koike’s novel is the suspenseful tale of a young family that believes it has found the perfect home to grow in to, only to realize that the apartment’s idyllic setting harbors the specter of evil and that longer they stay, the more trapped they become.
This tale of a young married couple who are harboring a dark secret is packed with dread and terror, as they and their daughter move into a brand new apartment building built next to a graveyard. As strange and terrifying occurrences begin to pile up, people in the building begin to move out one by one, until the young family is left alone with someone... or something... lurking in the basement. The psychological horror builds moment after moment, scene after scene, culminating with a conclusion that will make you think twice before ever going into a basement again.
Teppei and his wife Misao are thrilled when they find the Central Plaza Mansion apartment listing. The price lower than they expected, and the building seems like it will be perfect for them and their young daughter Tamao - it will even allow their dog, Cookie. Sure it's bordered by a cemetery, a Buddhist temple and a crematorium, but that can be ignored, right?
The apartment is supposed to be the perfect, new start for the Kano family. And for a bit it is.
Then, it most definitely is not.
The Graveyard Apartment was creepy and scary in a wonderful way I Wasn't expecting. It is not full of shocks and starts, things designed to startle and surprise you. Scary things do still happen but we often didn't get the direct experience of them, instead being an outside character or someone not sure what happened. While it might not sound as scary, it's definitely unsettling in its own way. The way things happened kept the tension and unease high for the whole book, not just the instance or two when a 'scary' thing happneed.
I liked that we still go to see who the characters were: the dark secret in Teppei and Misao's past, her desire to get back to work, his relationship with his brother, and them raising Tamao. (Though, it did often seem that Tamao was older than the four or five she was supposed to be. I wasn't sure if some of that was the translation, literal or figurative, or not.)
It seems that the translator did a great job with The Graveyard Apartment. I, of course, haven't read the novel in its original language so I can't say that definitively, but it certainly appears that way. There is a nice inclusion of the sayings, tidbits and daily life in Japan that are there, but either given context or somehow phrased in away that make them understandable to Western readers.
Before reading this book, I really wouldn't have minded living next to a graveyard, now I'm not so sure.
digital copy received for review, form publisher, via NetGalley