Friday, October 21, 2016

Location! Location! Location!

The Graveyard Apartment

By Mariko Koike

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Pub. Date: October 11, 2016

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The first thing that should be noted about The Graveyard Apartment is that it was first published in Japan in 1988. Almost 30 years later we have the first English translation of this quietly powerful horror novel by Mariko Koike. It is hard to figure out why it took so long. This was evidently a big success in Japan and the issues in it relate well to the western environment. It is also interesting to note that the plot and behaviors, with the exception of no cell phones which would have altered the story significantly, does not seem dated at all and reads like it could happen today.

The basic plot involves a family (Teppei, Misao, their daughter Tamoa and Cookie the dog) who moves to a suspiciously inexpensive apartment complex in Tokyo. Western fans of both horror movies and books know instinctively that you get what you pay for and I suspect that is an universal concept. The fact that the apartment complex is situated a little out of the mainstream and next to a cemetery and crematorium should be a big hint for them to reconsider but the family moves in happily. This is Teppei’s second marriage with the first ending in a way that sets an aura of guilt around the couple. At first the move seems to be a blessing with the only odd thing being the daughter’s announcement that her deceased pet finch is visiting her and warning about bad things to come. Eventually other odd occurrences happen which escalates in severity. Pretty soon, the other tenants are leaving in fear but whatever is causing the events doesn’t want them to leave.

This is a slow moving novel which places the social and psychological dilemma of the family in good perspective. When the karma hits the fan, so to speak, we understand the motives of all involved, including Teppei’s brother and wife who seem like minor characters at first but ends up with important roles at the end. Tamao is a precocious child who, despite her childhood belief in fantasy, seems to have a more grounded idea of what is going on than the adults. The book works due to its build-up. It isn’t until about two thirds through when thing start to really escalate and we have all the pieces of the puzzle set firmly enough to share the dread and angst.

As I mentioned earlier, it is quite amazing that the American publishers didn’t catch on to this novel until thirty years later. Fortunately good horror remains timeless. I am sure some might fault the lack of resolution at the ending and that may indeed be why the publishers failed to grab it at the time. It was our loss but now it has been rectified. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes a good suspense story of the supernatural variety.

No comments:

Post a Comment