Nine-year-old boys can have active imaginations. Left alone, without a mother or father and in the care of a doting but well-meaning housekeeper, that imagination can easily reach extremes, from incredible fantasy to irrational terror. Such is the case for the impressionable Samuel Clay, who yearns for his mother constantly and can recite the exact number of days she has been gone to the United States, in Stephen Giles’ intensely gripping thriller, The Boy at the Keyhole.
Only the occasional handwritten postcard stamped from America provides evidence that Samuel’s mother is alive and well. But the randomness of her communiqués—which Samuel tracks on a map using pushpins and yarn to denote each city his mother is in—baffles him to no end. The fact that his housekeeper, Ruth, keeps the postcards locked away in his mother’s room further confounds him. Despite Ruth’s assurances that his mother will return to their English estate once she has completed her business overseas, Samuel grows more and more distrustful of her. When his young schoolmate, Joseph, suggests Ruth may be up to something far more nefarious—that she may have killed Samuel’s mother and buried her in the basement—Samuel’s fear and desperation plunge to new depths. Ruth’s stern manner toward him, coupled with their dwindling finances, ramps up his suspicions that she had his mother killed to avoid being fired. Convinced that Ruth is lying to him, Samuel boldly sneaks into his mother’s room to steal one of the letters and makes a stunning discovery. Samuel ultimately confronts Ruth in a frantic, pulse-pounding conclusion.
Giles, who is the author of the popular Ivy Pocket children’s series of books, has written a slick psychological thriller. His debut adult novel is sure to fire up readers’ own imaginations.