Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Graveyard Apartment: A Novel by Mariko Koike, Deborah Boliver Boehm (Translator)

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.

I have mixed feelings on this one. A husband, wife, their young daughter, and dog Cookie (who is the only character's name I can spell or pronounce) move into a beautiful brand new apartment which overlooks a graveyard and crematorium. In fact on some days you can see the smoke of burning bodies drifting towards the windows. From the minute they move in odd things start  happening. Their pet bird dies their very first night in their new home, and as if that is not enough of a bad omen, right away the mom hears of a tragedy that occurred when a child in the neighborhood was killed on his way to kindergarten. They want to leave.. but something seems intent on making them stay.The book definitely held my interest however I expected it to be scarier. Some of the scariest horror movies have come from Japan and have Americanized versions so I guess I expected the same from this book. The terror factor just wasn't there for me.  I would occasionally come upon a word that just seemed an odd choice. I don't know if something was lost in translation from Japanese or if it is due to the time period of the book (late 80s) but some things just seemed a bit off. For example I don't think little girls still said things like "oh goody" Of course I could be wrong but I just don't think I have heard that since maybe the last time I watched an old black and white 50s sit com. When I first started the book I kind of stalled each time I came to a name, and tried to sound it out and figure out how to pronounce it. I don't have a clue how to pronounce Japanese names so I gave up and began to think of the main characters as Maisy, Terry and Tammy. I can't say I actually liked any of the characters, including the brother and his wife. This was not a "bad" book it was just not very scary.
I would rate it 3 and a half of 5 stars.

I received an advance copy for review.


  1. I read this book, too. Or, attempted to. I found the writing so poor it was painful. Maybe the problem is the translation? On page 50 for example:
    "My hedonistic self-indulgence drove Reiko to hang herself..."
    Hedonistic self-indulgence? Hedonism is the very definition of self-indulgence! Horrible writing, even worse editing. I couldn't finish it.

    1. Hi BookChick, thanks for the comment. Things like that are what I meant by poor word choice.
      I think it was the translation, but that's just my opinion.


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