The Boy at the Keyhole (Stephen Giles, Michael Joseph)
Nine-year-old Samuel is worried about his mother who has been abroad sorting out financial affairs for 113 days. To make matters worse, Samuel is stuck in a draughty old manor house in the English countryside with nobody to look after him but the housekeeper Ruth—who could give creepy Mrs Danvers from Rebecca a run for her money. Samuel begins to wonder if there’s more to his mother’s swift disappearance than Ruth is telling him. A series of postcards from America aren’t enough to quell Samuel’s suspicions that something sinister has happened, and Ruth’s denials only stoke the fire of Samuel’s increasing suspicion and terror. Best-known for his ‘Ivy Pocket’ and ‘Silas and the Winterbottoms’ children’s series, Stephen Giles masterfully captures the inner dialogue of a frightened, desperate boy, and reveals himself to be an adept mystery writer: planting several clues that allow readers to piece together a larger backstory than Samuel is able to see. This taut, terrific and terrifying page-turner is thick with nail-biting tension and will keep readers up long into the night. Commercial crime fiction fans would do well to pick up this gem of a slow-burning thriller but should be advised to go in with as little prior knowledge as possible and simply let the tantalising plot unfold.
Melinda Allan is a librarian and freelance book reviewer