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  • Writer's pictureHannah Zunic

Is It Cheaper to Live in a Haunted Apartment?: A Review of The Graveyard Apartment by Mariko Koike

Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases.

Y’all, it’s the last review of Spooky Season. I’m so sad now. I’m not ready for Spooky Season to be over. I didn’t do enough fall things. I didn’t go to the pumpkin patch!

Sadness from Inside Out.
I did so much yet not enough!

And now I have to write the last Spooky Season review! I’m not ready for the best season to be over. Guess I’ll just rip the band-aid off. So let’s crack into it.

Please give a warm round of applause to The Graveyard Apartment by Mariko Koike.

Book cover of The Graveyard Apartment by Mariko Koike.

Published in 1993 in Japan, the English version wasn’t published until 2016. I’m fairly certain that I bought myself a copy within two years of the translated version being out. I read The Graveyard Apartment pretty much right away and I remember being unenthused with it by the end. Now, many years later, I’ve come back to this atmospheric read with fresh eyes. So let’s crack into it.

As always, a spoiler alert is in order; you’ve been warned. I also must issue a content and trigger warning. There are mentions of suicide in this book. I won’t be talking about this topic in my review, but please know it’s there. Synopsis time now.

Our story opens with an advert for the brand-new luxury apartment complex Central Plaza Mansion. Boasting convenient access to shopping, schools, public transport, in house storage units, on-site parking, and a peaceful, private, and quiet area, the Kano family would be idiots not to buy an apartment here. The downside? The peaceful, quiet area the apartment building is located in is surrounded by a graveyard; hence this book’s title.

Grim Reaper.
Does this mean Death is always watching this area?

Yeah, living next to a graveyard is a big no-no. But the Kano family decides living at Central Plaza Mansion is a good idea graveyard or no graveyard. So they move into the complex with their young daughter, Tamao, and their dog, Cookie, and begin to build their lives in their new home. Things get bad fast though. Right after moving in the family’s pet bird dies, they notice weird glitches on their TV, the basement is hella creepy, oh, and the bird’s ghost comes back to warn Tamao that she and the rest of the family are in danger.

"That's a red flag."
Just what I want to hear from a deceased pet.

So things are not great…and the longer the family lives at Central Plaza Mansion the worse things become. Mysterious injuries, the elevator malfunctions randomly, noises emanate from the basement, and every single resident of the building move out within months until the Kanos are the only ones left. Will they make it out? Or will this building hold them captive now and forever more? And speaking of the building, why is it haunted?

Haunted house tale! My favorite. On paper this novel is right up my alley. It’s atmospheric, there’s paranormal activity, there’s a ten-out-of-ten doggo, it’s a slow burn; on paper this book is perfect in my eyes. Except some things simply don’t work for me.

Woman being disappointed.
I have high expectations and few things actually met them.

Let’s start with pacing. This is a slow burn. Like super slow. Snail pace slow. Now, let’s make one thing clear, the events of this novel are spaced out well throughout the novel. It does feel like stuff is happening often enough, but the time between the events can come across as really, really boring. Between paranormal events, the main characters do nothing. Spoiler alert, there is never any explanation as to why the apartment complex is haunted. Or I guess I should say nothing is ever confirmed. I mean, the haunting definitely has to do with a graveyard being right next door and for another reason that I won’t mention, but the reason as to why the ghosts are angry and haunting the apartment is never confirmed. Everything is just heavily implied.

Miss J being confused.
I want more answers.

The more I write the more I realize my issue doesn’t lie in the pacing. Pacing is all fine and dandy although it could be a tad bit faster in my opinion. Yes, things can get a little boring in between paranormal experiences, but my issue truly lies with the paranormal aspect itself. It doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it an ancient evil? Are the deceased buried in the graveyard mad about the apartment building being next door? Are the Kanos haunted by a ghost from their past? There’s no real answer and it bothers me. It could just be a little clearer and the book would be ten times stronger.

And maybe this has something to do with the translation. No matter what, I feel like things are always lost in translation. That is a very strong possibility cause I know The Graveyard Apartment is heralded as one of the best of the best when it comes to Japanese horror novels. Just feels indecisive at times.

It’s time for dog news now. I know, I’ve just done a massive 180 but stay with me. We gotta talk about Cookie. Does Cookie live? It’s the question we all need the answer to. Once again, spoilers ahead. There is no explicit death scene involving Cookie. The ending is open to interpretation though I’d say it’s heavily implied no one lives; including Cookie. But again, there is no explicit doggy death scene and for that reason I will continue to believe Cookie is alive and well and living a good doggy life full of bones and cuddles. I will be accepting no other ending for Cookie; she’s an innocent who deserves everything.

Excited corgi.
Cookie is fine, you can't change my mind.

Now, this book is not without its strengths. The Graveyard Apartment is atmospheric as hell. You as a reader feel how lonely the Kano family becomes as everyone else in the building moves out. As more people move out, the more shit starts to happen and the more helpless the situation feels. This is where the slow burn pays off cause there’s such a gradual change from the happy beginning to all hope lost. It’s the best part about the book.

Thumbs up boy.

That and the ending. While I do not have the answers to really any questions, the ending is pretty much hopeless. Desperation is fully gone and the family is simply resigned to their fate. I love it! I love bummer endings and The Graveyard Apartment has got a good one.

Overall I’m still underwhelmed by The Graveyard Apartment after all these years. The atmosphere and ending are good; I enjoyed those aspects greatly. The story at large is just not my fave.

With that, I must bid you all adieu. I shall see you next week with sometime fun that I know you all like.

Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.

Bears waving.
See y'all then, bye!

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