book reviews by Althea

The Graveyard Apartment – Mariko Koike **

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The Graveyard Apartment
The Graveyard Apartment by Mariko Koike

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Early in this book, there’s an aside, which I had to wonder if it was added by the translator, that Western people might not find it terribly scary or abnormal to live in the vicinity of a graveyard, noting that many people regard them similarly to lovely parks. This definitely describes my attitude; I would regard a home with a view looking out on a graveyard to be more desirable, not less.
Although I’ve visited Japan, asking people what they thought of living near cemeteries never came up in conversation. This book makes the presumption that it’s shocking, no one would do it unless they had to, friends will comment upon it, and that condos near the cemetery would sell at roughly half the price of what an equivalent home would elsewhere. Is this true? I don’t know. I google-mapped one random cemetery in Japan, and it looked like residential streets were directly abutting it.

However, for the purposes of the story I said, “OK, we will just accept that this is a very undesirable and spooky location.” So, my rating has nothing to do with whether or not living near a graveyard is spooky, or not. (After all, the premise was obvious from the title.)

Married couple and their young daughter move into the condo that ends up being called the “Graveyard Apartment.” The building is half-empty (and soon gets emptier); the neighbors, eccentric. Although, on the face of it, the family looks ‘perfect,’ the relationship is haunted (in the non-supernatural way) by the ghost of the husband’s former wife, and both partners’ guilt about what happened to end that relationship. Soon, spooky events start happening around the building, and they get a bad feeling about the place – especially the basement. Unfortunately, they sank their life savings into this condo, and don’t have the resources to get a new place. (Buyers aren’t exactly lining up to move in while everyone else is moving out.) Gradually, their isolation escalates, and strange events start getting harder to ignore or explain away.

The set-up isn’t bad. However, after that, the book just doesn’t pull it together. It ends up feeling like the author followed the basic form of a bad “B” horror movie, without paying any attention to the logical (or mythological) underpinnings of typical events in the genre. The end result is a non-scary random mish-mash. My issues with how things play out: SPOILER DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THIS BOOK. (view spoiler)

Many thank to Thomas Dunne Books and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this recently-translated book. As always, my opinions are solely my own.
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