Reminiscent of a love-hate drama on the Kabuki stage, this is a well-known, centuries-old ghost story adapted into a stylish novel. Koheiji Kohada is a washed-up actor approaching forty; ten years have passed since the big-name Kabuki star who had taken him under his wing cut him off for failing to live up to expectations. There is a certain indistinctness in his bearing and speech that raises doubts about how alive or dead he might be; this limits him to playing ghosts, and he has been reduced to working on the country circuit if at all. He is married to his second wife, Otsuka, and when he has no work, he spends his time huddled in the closet of the house that belongs to her, silently watching her through a crack in the door as she goes about her day.
His friend Takuro brings word of a job opportunity: a small troupe needs someone to play a ghost on its tour of Tohoku. Koheiji's performance is a hit, and the tour is off to a great start, but the local merchant who is sponsoring the tour has other motives. He wants Koheiji to perform as the ghost of his daughter, who was raped and murdered, in hopes that it will make the suspect crack. Koeheiji performs splendidly in this role as well, and the killer is apprehended. He is rewarded generously for his efforts, but then everything goes sour. Jealous of the accolades and riches Koheiji is suddenly enjoying, Takuro and his buddies sink him in a swamp. The night before word of his demise reaches Otsuka in Edo, Koheiji returns to her house bearing a sword wound. But is he dead or alive? . . . A compelling story of a man bereft of family and friends and peering into the void, and of the extraordinary love he and Otsuka share.