Looking for a gothic slow burn psychological suspense?
Thanks to Hanover Square Press for the free copies in exchange for our honest reviews!
THE BOY AT THE KEYHOLE – Stephen Giles (out now!)
Check out what the #allthebookreviews duo thought 🙂
Chandra’s Thoughts: 3/5 stars
This slow burn of a psychological mystery will leave you guessing what is true and what is not.
What else is a nine-year-old boy supposed to do when his mother leaves to go to another country in the middle of the night without even saying goodbye? Of course he’s going to try and figure out why she would do such a thing. Enter his friend who starts putting ideas of murder in his head and watch the wheels start to turn!
Ruth, the housekeeper and now his guardian is not the nicest. She’s strict, almost abusive, and definitely has secrets of her own. Suspect number one and the easiest to question. But how does he prove that she killed his mother… if she even did?
We get the full on gothic feel with the house that probably carries ghosts, having a scary attic and basement, and the slow build as we watch Samuel’s mind work overtime. However, is he imaging these clues or is it all so real? We all know how imaginative children’s minds can be. What Giles does wonderfully is to put us in the mind of Samuel.
Do not go into this expecting a fast paced thriller that’s nicely tied up. Walk into this with trepidation and get into Samuel’s head. This slow burn will really bring you straight in. I will say that it did drag in certain parts and I think may have worked better as a novella. However, I was intrigued to see what was going to happen and where the author would take me.
My Thoughts: 4/5 stars
THE BOY AT THE KEYHOLE has a Gothic vibe and a growing sense of dread as the story progresses. It was a little slow in the beginning for me, so it’s good to know right away that this isn’t a twisty thriller. This is a slower burn suspense novel, but once that suspense amps up you won’t be able to stop flipping the pages.
Samuel Clay is a nine year old boy living with his full time housekeeper turned nanny. His mother is away in America to try and settle with bankers and get more money for the family after Samuel’s father passed away. Ruth, the housekeeper, runs a strict household and keeps Samuel in line. With his mother being gone for over 100 days he begins to suspect that something isn’t right.
His friend Joseph tells him a story of a nanny in Germany that had killed the family she worked for and continued to live in their home for months after. She claimed that the family had to suddenly leave to America and left in the middle of the night – just like Samuel’s mother did. Samuel begins to let his mind run wild and is convinced that Ruth killed his mother and hid her in the cellar.
As the story picks up in the second half, we can’t be sure who to trust. Is Samuel right? Is his mind playing tricks on him? It was very different having the potentially unreliable narrator be that of a child – this is told entirely from Samuel’s perspective. There will be chapters where you’re convinced it’s Ruth, and then others where you doubt Samuel’s sanity and judgement.
The ending surprised me and left me wanting more answers! What happened? What’s going to happen? I know not many people like these types of endings – where they aren’t tied together perfectly – but I love them. This was a solid suspense novel and I can’t wait to see what Giles comes out with next!
What do you think of the more ambiguous endings?