The Graveyard Apartment: Mariko Koike
Reviewed By Fiona Dodwell
It’s only the beginning of 2020, yet I feel confident when I say that The Graveyard Apartment, by Mariko Koike, is probably going to end up being one of my best reads of the year. How can I know so soon? I just do. To this reader, it was really that good.
This story somehow managed to capture everything I love about the “haunted house” genre yet turned it into something unique. It is a story that captures the horror of what it means to be haunted by something other-worldly – yet at the same time, it also tells a beautiful story of the lives and relationships of one family as they seek to survive the most unusual of circumstances.
I fell in love with the characters. The family in The Graveyard Apartment – Misao (mother), Teppei (father) Tamao (daughter) and Cookie the dog – all felt so real, so relatable, and I couldn’t help but feel personally involved in their plight. Misao, more than anything, was a gem of a character and I loved “being in her head” during the story and experiencing what she experienced. By the end of the 325 page novel, I felt like I was letting go of friends. Books rarely do that to me – only the best ones.
So, what’s it all about? The Graveyard Apartment follows the experiences of a family who end up buying a top floor apartment – that overlooks a temple and graveyard. This book is written by a Japanese author and based in Japan (translated by Deborah Boem) so obviously a lot of the practises and attitudes surrounding graveyards and death is relevant to the country. The novel takes the reader through the strange and sinister things that begin to happen when the couple, their child and dog move in to their new apartment. They bought their new home cheap because of the fact that the nearby graveyard has put potential buyers off, and they are desperate to make it work. However, things take a turn for the worst – as all scary stories must.
So far, you’re probably thinking it all sounds too boringly familiar – new house, ghosts, etc. However, this novel just does something different, in my opinion. There are none of the usual “footsteps in the night” or well-worn cliches… there are plenty of original scares and some really fascinating themes that just make this an outstanding book.
I won’t place any spoilers in this review, and what I mention here is available on the main book description/synopsis: as events occur in the terrifying block of apartments, soon each resident moves out, leaving our main characters alone in the entire property. That alone is scary to me – think about it: you live with your family in a top floor apartment, the rest of the property is deserted, a spooky graveyard is your only view… and something creepy seems to be stalking your family. It’s just the perfect ingredients for a good, scary story, in my opinion.
As events unwind and the story unfolds, there are lots of twists and turns, and we also come to know a great deal more about the family and their relationships. It’s a truly engrossing tale and one that really captured my imagination.
I read several reviews and comments online that had an issue with the ending. It was not a problem to me, personally. I expect it’s like most things in life – personal taste. What works for some won’t work for others, so I respect that it’s a case of “each to their own.” That’s the way it goes with anything creative. What I feel I can say without giving anything away is this: there’s a sense of mystery surrounding some aspects of the ending, but for me it really worked. I would say that no matter what any reader comes away with regarding the conclusion of the story, this book is creepy enough, strong enough and solid enough to warrant reading.
I simply loved The Graveyard Apartment, and now that I have finished it, I will miss being immersed in the story. I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy a creepy tale. It will be amongst this year’s best reads for me, I feel quite sure of that. In fact, it may be ranked in there amongst my “Best Reads” list of all time – I loved it that much.
The Graveyard Apartment
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.
Fiona Dodwell has been writing fiction for almost 10 years, with several horror/paranormal titles released under various publishers. Alongside this, she is a freelance writer for various websites and magazines. She has written features for Warner Music, Made In Shoreditch Magazine, Music-news.com and Tremr.
Fiona has studied Psychology, Film Studies, Theology and Health & Social Care.
Her biggest passion is reading dark fiction, as well as creating new stories of her own – the creepier the better!
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