Rin Chupeco’s 2014 The Girl From the Well is a horror novel.
In the centuries since her lord betrayed and murdered her, Okiku has never found the peace that would allow her to leave this mundane world. She cannot take revenge on the men who tossed her down a well; they’re all dead. Consumed by a fury she can never slake, Okiku has turned her anger in another direction. She wanders the Earth, killing those who murder children.
Okiku has been doing this for centuries and has become an amazingly skillful ghost assassin. She has never failed. (It helps that mundane senses cannot detect her.) Police have no chance of catching Okiku (or even understanding that they are dealing with a spectral killer),
All that the police can do is investigate the lives of the victims, to see if they can suss out some reason for the murders. What they find, as often as not, are the crimes that attracted Okiku’s attention in the first place. This allows the police to close what otherwise might remain cold case files.
Until now, Okiku has only acted to punish the guilty. She is rather surprised (and pleased) to discover that she can prevent murders as well as revenge them. Her latest project: protecting Tarquin, a troubled teen who is being stalked by an American serial killer.
Killing the killer will be trivial. But there’s a further complication: a shade imprisoned within Tarquin that poses a very real danger to Tarquin and those he loves. Symptom: his tattoos move.
It’s not clear to me if the police have realized there’s one entity murderizing serial killers. One hopes at least one bright cop has set up a Google Alert for any case fitting her unique profile, having realized the dead are invariably serial killers.
If this seems reminiscent of The Ring , it is because The Ring and The Girl From the Well are drawing from the same well of Japanese folktales.
Tarquin is a living prison for something very bad because Tarquin’s Japanese mother, is a former shrine maiden, a miko. She performed a rite that has had horrible consequences for Tarquin. Who might be able to fix things? A community of Japanese nuns who specialize in containing supernatural menaces. The same one to which Tarquin’s mother belonged.
I’m not sure how I feel about the author’s take on Japanese culture and Shinto rites. It doesn’t ring true for me, but then … this isn’t my cultural background . If you’ve read the book and have views on this, please comment. Nevertheless, the story highlights the dire need for a proper regulatory agency for supernatural problem solvers. The nuns mean well but their methodology appears flawed.
Nor was I altogether happy with some of the author’s stylistic choices or the repeated episodes of the over-the-top violence. At least Okiku undergoes character growth, which is rare in the case of spirits channeling homicidal rage.
This book wasn’t my thing, but it may be yours.
1: I’m more familiar with the Anglosphere’s fad for psychically gifted Irish and Scots. My mother’s people, for example, tell tales of visions that foretold death. Unfortunately, these visions never arrived in time for anyone to do anything useful to prevent said deaths.