The Summer of the Ubume
By Natsuhiko Kyogoku
(Vertical, Paperback, 9781934287255, 320pp.)
Publication Date: August 18, 2009
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In Japanese folklore, a ghost that arise from the burial of a pregnant woman is an Ubume.
The Summer of Ubume is the first of Japan's hugely popular Kyogokudo series, which has 9 titles and 4 spinoffs thus far.
Akihiko "Kyogokudo" Chuzenji, the title's hero, is an exorcist with a twist: he doesn't blieve in ghosts. To circumnavigate his clients' inability to come to grips with a problem being their own, he creates fake supernatural explanations--ghosts--that he the "exorcises" by way of staged rituals. His patients' belief that he has vanquished the ghost creating their problems cures them.
In this first adventure, Kyogokudo, must unravel the mystery of a woman who has been pregnant for 20 months and find her husband, who disappeared two months into the pregnancy. And unravel he does, in the book's final disturbing scene.
Natsuhiko Kyogoku is an expert in Japanese folklore, especially monsters, ghosts, and supernatural phenomena. Having never been published before, he brought the manuscript of The Summer of Ubume to the publisher himself, and it debuted in 1994 with great success. The unusual nature of how the title got published and its success inspired the creation of the Mephisto Award, which honors new mystery and fantasy writers.
The second book of this series won the Japan Mystery Writers Association Award in 1996. Kyogoku won the prestigious Naoki Prize in 2004.