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.Read more...
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 into, 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 harbor 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 start 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."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-07-25
- Reviewer: Staff
It’s been 30 years since The Graveyard Apartment was published in Japan, and now this new translation aims to bring the supernatural stylings of Mariko Koike to a 21st-century English-reading audience. This claustrophobic ghost story does lay down the creepy atmosphere and hit the form’s best notes, but I suspect the reception will be mixed—largely because the book could be at least a third shorter, and its protagonists are real jerks. Teppei and Misao Kano are seeking a fresh start in a largely vacant apartment building called the Central Plaza Mansion. Sure, it’s surrounded on three sides by an old cemetery and it overlooks a temple with a crematory, but the price is right and the building is practically brand new. Immediately upon arrival, their pet bird dies, their small daughter complains of ghostly visits, and their dog behaves weirdly. One by one, the neighbors move out, and the scary incidents escalate. From a high-level genre standpoint, it’s satisfyingly paint-by-numbers—which I don’t say as a criticism, or intend as a backhanded compliment. I’m a big fan of ghost stories, and I don’t want every one of them to reinvent the wheel. I love a good wheel. However, there’s a lot of filler, and the narrative is almost entirely tell, no show. Too often the action slows down for a lengthy aside on a topic such as civic planning or urban real estate, and the characters routinely indulge in hefty interior monologues that mostly underscore what terrible people they are. To be frank, despite their adorable daughter and dog, the newest residents of the Central Plaza Mansion are hard to root for. Their relationship began as a torrid affair that drove Teppei’s first wife to suicide, and even when he found her body hanging in their apartment, he couldn’t find it in his heart to say anything nice about her. Instead, he idly mused about how badly he’d treated her when she was alive—and how much she’d deserved every minute of it. Misao isn’t much better, though she does show a little embarrassment about the whole affair-and-suicide thing. Unfortunately, when she isn’t going through the motions of respecting the dead wife’s memory, she’s busy being catty about people who are kind to her. By the end, I was hoping that the kid and dog would ride off safely into the sunset, and everybody else would go ahead and get eaten by monsters. That said, the supernatural mystery at the center is pretty interesting, and there are several solid scare-scenes that are beautifully done. The Graveyard Apartment requires some patience in places, and not everyone will hold out for the reward at the end. But for true genre enthusiasts, it’s worth a look. Cherie Priest is the author of 19 books and novellas, including the gothic horror novel Maplecroft and the Clockwork Century series. Her novel The Family Plot will be out from Tor Books in September.
Haunted heroines take on the supernatural
At the scary, broken heart of each of these three novels stands a woman of tremendous courage. It’s a quality she—each of these three very different “shes”—will need in order to face the horrors bent on destroying her. Also marking each heroine is a possibly fatal flaw that draws the monstrous entities in her direction with implacable magnetism.
A SINISTER FORCE IN THE SCENIC CITY
Cherie Priest is an author who loves the feel of things—tangible objects, especially ones that hold in their heft a heap of history. Her new novel, The Family Plot, has the perfect concept to indulge this enthusiasm: A salvage company from Nashville, Tennessee, is hired by an elderly woman to dismantle and sell off every beautiful thing in her family’s old homestead before the grand house is demolished. And where is this gorgeous edifice, packed to the rafters with so many treasures? Right at the base of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, site of one of the fiercest battles of the Civil War. Dahlia Dutton leads her salvage crew with an appropriately iron hand, but she is dangerously susceptible to the allure of the haunted house she is commissioned to tear apart. The spirits who haunt the place feel her softness toward them, and they respond with diabolical vengeance. It’s an old story.
The Family Plot delivers a double helping of fun: A prospectus of auction items worthy of Southern Living is served up alongside a tale of gothic suspense woven from the familiar fabric of lost war ballads, flavored with the bitter twang of ingrown family evils and hypocritical Confederate piety. For Priest, as for her vulnerable protagonist, the more traditional the object, the more valuable it’s got to be.
THEY'RE IN THE BASEMENT
Chattanooga and Tokyo are a world apart in every way. Mariko Koike is one of the biggest names in mystery and horror in her native Japan, and now U.S. readers can share the thrills. Her 1986 classic The Graveyard Apartment, now translated into English for the first time by Deborah Boliver Boehm, is one of the strangest and most terrifying horror novels I’ve ever read, and that’s saying a lot. One reason for the book’s uncanny impact is a cultural one. Japan possesses a vast folklore of supernatural beings, the taxonomy for which is fabulously complex. With acute economy, Koike has distilled this puzzling array of horrible creatures into one great and collective force. That force is concentrating on one hapless family living in a crazy apartment building in a neglected precinct of the capital city, surrounded by a huge graveyard.
Two factors conspire to make the experience of reading The Graveyard Apartment especially harrowing. The first is a focus on the building’s basement, in which the worst things happen. There is no distancing ourselves from the horror; it could happen to us. The second factor concerns the psychological foundation for the family’s persecution—a painful scenario, all too common, in which a guilty mother heroically and desperately attempts to protect her innocent child. Did the terrible error she and the little girl’s father committed—bringing about both the child’s life and the first wife’s death—somehow lead to these fatal consequences? It is a superbly distressing question, another instance of absolute evil tormenting simple human frailty.
DON'T LOOK BACK
I have saved the best of the three new books for last, and I’ll say the least about it, mainly to insist to my fellow fans of horror that you must get your hands on this one. The Motion of Puppets is the only novel I know to have fulfilled Robert Aickman’s famous statement about great supernatural tales, that they are the fiction most closely approaching poetry. Keith Donohue (The Stolen Child) has crafted a perfect fable based on the mysterious attraction of the puppet theater. Building upon the archaic superstition (exploited in Toy Story) that puppets have their own emotional lives, the author takes one more magnificent step and ties in the devastating myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Instead of descending to the Underworld, Kay Harper has been magically transformed into a puppet. Her husband, Theo, must try to find her and win her back. Every page of this novel hums with mythic power, pulling on every heartstring.
There’s a delightful variety of heroism, susceptibility and supernatural threat in these three novels. We recommend that you treat yourself to all of them—if it’s a trick you can manage.