The Boy at the Keyhole
by Stephen Giles
Nine-year-old Samuel lives alone in a once-great estate in Surrey with the family’s housekeeper, Ruth. His father is dead and his mother has been abroad for months, purportedly tending to her late husband’s faltering business. She left in a hurry one night while Samuel was sleeping and did not say goodbye.
Beyond her sporadic postcards, Samuel hears nothing from his mother. He misses her dearly and maps her journey in an atlas he finds in her study. Samuel’s life is otherwise regulated by Ruth, who runs the house with an iron fist. Only she and Samuel know how brutally she enforces order.
As rumors in town begin to swirl, Samuel wonders whether something more sinister is afoot. Perhaps his mother did not leave but was murdered—by Ruth.
Artful, haunting and hurtling toward a psychological showdown, The Boy at the Keyhole is an incandescent debut about the precarious dance between truth and perception, and the shocking acts that occur behind closed doors.
3 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
The Boy at the Keyhole by Stephen Giles
Young Samuel Clay has recently lost his father. They were once a family with a great name, a grand estate, and money and status to go with it. But now, since the death of his father, Samuel’s mother has been abroad, leaving Samuel in the care of the strict housekeeper Ruth.
With a little suggestion from his friend and a lot of help from his imagination, it doesn’t take long before Samuel starts thinking that maybe his mother isn’t just away in America searching for business opportunities. He starts thinking that maybe something more sinister has happened to her–and that the person who did it is the one who’s been trusted with his care now.
The tension is very palpable in this novel, which kept me turning the pages waiting for something big to happen. There were very good moments here and there, but overall I felt there was a ton of buildup to a very unspectacular ending.
As with most Gothic type novels, the house itself plays a role in the story; the Clay manor is large and its’ rooms are full of dark secrets. As we join Samuel going in and out of these rooms trying to discover what really happened to his mother, we can see how he might have started thinking some unsavory things were going on in his home.
I’m still not sure about the ending. Ambiguity is one thing, but I felt totally confused when it was all said and done. I didn’t understand the character’s motives or what exactly happened and why. Maybe some people enjoy that type of ending, but I don’t.
View all my reviews
About the Author
Stephen Giles is the Australian author behind the lauded children’s series “Anyone But Ivy Pocket”, penned under the pseudonym Caleb Krisp. The series, published in the US by HarperCollins/Greenwillow and the UK by Bloomsbury, appeared on the New York Times Best Seller List, has been translated into 25 different languages and was optioned by Paramount Pictures.
Prior to selling his first book, Stephen worked in a variety of jobs to supplement his writing including market research, film classification and media monitoring. “The Boy at the Keyhole” is Giles’ first work for adults and the film rights for this book have been acquired by New Regency.