The Boy at the Keyhole

The Boy at the Keyhole

An electrifying debut in the vein of Shirley Jackson and Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, about a British boy who, after his mother is abruptly called away to America, begins to suspect that perhaps she did not leave, but was murdered—by the housekeeper who cares for him in the family's isolated country estate.Nine-year-old Samuel lives alone in a once great estate in Surrey w...

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Title:The Boy at the Keyhole
Author:Stephen Giles
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Boy at the Keyhole Reviews

  • Fran

    Push pins on an atlas are the only way nine year old Samuel Clay can track his mother's trip to America. That, and eight postcards sent from various locales. Mrs. Clay was seeking a large investment to jump start the sagging business she runs since the death of her husband. Samuel aches for his mother but also resents her. Why has she been gone one hundred thirteen days? Why did she abruptly leave in the middle of the night without saying goodbye? After school, Samuel races home hoping to find h

    Push pins on an atlas are the only way nine year old Samuel Clay can track his mother's trip to America. That, and eight postcards sent from various locales. Mrs. Clay was seeking a large investment to jump start the sagging business she runs since the death of her husband. Samuel aches for his mother but also resents her. Why has she been gone one hundred thirteen days? Why did she abruptly leave in the middle of the night without saying goodbye? After school, Samuel races home hoping to find his mom back from her trip.

    The family estate in Cornwall is crumbling. Many household items and heirlooms have been sold to pay bills incurred by Mr. Clay. Samuel is being cared for by trusted housekeeper, Ruth Tupper. Always having been treated as family, she has a bedroom down the hall from Samuel. Ruth runs the household with an iron fist. She appears stiff and bothered, constantly critical of Samuel. If he could choose, he would opt for freedom like his pet rabbit, Robin Hood and do as he pleased.

    Samuel's best friend, Joseph floats a scenario about Mrs. Clay's departure. Samuel's thoughts run wild especially since Ruth informs him that he cannot write or phone his mother. Why has Ruth locked all of the upstairs rooms?

    "The Boy at the Keyhole: A Novel" by Stephen Giles is a slow-burning psychological thriller. The tension builds and builds. A taut, unputdownable read!

    Thank you Harlequin, Hanover Square Press and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review "The Boy at the Keyhole".

  • DJ Sakata

    Favorite Quotes:

    Ruth could do that. Make a decree, like a queen or something, that certain topics had reached their end and that would be that.

    Now that he stood on the precipice of this wrongdoing, he felt the fluttering in his chest that made every breath sound as if he were sitting on a rattling train.

    The same wine his mother said made his father prone to unsettling fits of national pride and falling asleep midsentence.

    Part of the reason Samuel was sent to the local school and not somewhere m

    Favorite Quotes:

    Ruth could do that. Make a decree, like a queen or something, that certain topics had reached their end and that would be that.

    Now that he stood on the precipice of this wrongdoing, he felt the fluttering in his chest that made every breath sound as if he were sitting on a rattling train.

    The same wine his mother said made his father prone to unsettling fits of national pride and falling asleep midsentence.

    Part of the reason Samuel was sent to the local school and not somewhere more distinguished, like his father and uncle had, was because his mother didn’t want him turning out like his uncle Felix, who she said was a pompous buffoon wrapped in tweed, dipped in gin and rolled in horsehair.

    Samuel saw the lies easily enough; they practically leached from her skin like poisonous gas. She twisted everything, turning the truth in on itself until it looked like something else.

    My Review:

    I am in quite a pique over the ending, or lack thereof, so rating this skillfully crafted book puts me in a quandary. The story didn’t seem anywhere near a stopping point, yet it ended. Gah – I am infuriated as I was riveted to my Kindle while reading and hissed in complaint at any interruption. Needless to say, adulting did not happen today, as evidenced by my profane and childish reaction to hitting the last page. Yet, I cannot deny that Stephen Giles is a master storyteller who is extremely gifted with the word voodoo. His writing was mesmerizing and laced with observant details and massive insightfulness into the mind of a child. His characters were compelling and deftly written, I was eager to learn every little nuance I could wring from the narrative. His storylines were tautly written and adroitly textured, I was on edge and keenly interested throughout. I couldn’t settle on a theory and developed and cast off several while reading. The housekeeper was vile and monstrous, harsh on a good day; the mother was absent, irresponsible, and self-absorbed; and the child – oh, he squeezed my heart, I ached for him. But that ending - he really left me hanging, would it have killed him to have kept going just a few more pages? It rankles, but I have to give him his due. Sigh, 5-Stars. This would make an excellent movie.

  • Chris Mara

    A suspenseful psychological thriller involving Samuel, a 9 year old boy and his, and the estate homes’ caretaker, Ruth. Honestly, I could not put this book down!

    Ruth is a questionable person at the get go. No one really knows of her personal or professional background. She is brusque, she is a perfectionist, very strict and runs the home with an iron will and fist. She also runs 9 year old Samuel, her charge, with that same controlling manner. This woman, while she cooks and cleans impeccably a

    A suspenseful psychological thriller involving Samuel, a 9 year old boy and his, and the estate homes’ caretaker, Ruth. Honestly, I could not put this book down!

    Ruth is a questionable person at the get go. No one really knows of her personal or professional background. She is brusque, she is a perfectionist, very strict and runs the home with an iron will and fist. She also runs 9 year old Samuel, her charge, with that same controlling manner. This woman, while she cooks and cleans impeccably and complains about everything she has to do as if it’s a heavy burden on her, takes on the responsibility of taking care of Samuel in much the same way.

    This poor, poor boy. He has endured her wrath by constant, continual verbal barrage and he has felt the pain of her physical abuse. She is not to be reckoned with. She constantly hovers and checks on Samuel all the time. This poor kid cannot go anywhere in the house with her yelling or looking for him, “Samuel, where are you?” “Samuel, this and Samuel that” Good grief, the kid does not even have a moment away in peace or time to think! She is constantly on his case. He can’t even breathe or sleep properly. His only time away from her is when he goes to school, and it is there that his best friend, Joseph, plants a seed of doubt about Ruth and about Samuel’s mother.

    There are rumors that when Samuel’s father died, the family was in a negative financial situation. Samuel’s mother, who was better at finances than her husband, takes off for the States to talk to banks and try to straighten things out. Already a portion of this Surrey estate has had to be sold off. Some of the staff has had to be let go or have not been paid their wages. As time goes on, running the house with less to no money becomes a responsibility and a burden to Ruth. She improvises in various ways, you will see.

    Back to Samuel’s mother - How she leaves is quite questionable to the reader and also to Samuel. Samuel loves and adores his mother so very much. He can’t wait for her to come back home. He keeps calling up memories of her. He sneaks into her bedroom to touch a dress she used to wear; to smell some fading perfume she used. He asks about his mother constantly, much to Ruth’s chagrin. Samuel does get short postcards from his Mum from the U.S. and they bring him joy and hope that she is on her way back to being with him.

    But...

    We find that her feelings for her child, Samuel, are not the same or motherly, and we all know this happens. That she suffered from a long stint of post partum depression and/or a nervous breakdown of sorts. Samuel’s father was the primary parent as she couldn’t, just couldn’t, didn’t want to be by him, take him away please, Ruth; it was very sad and heartbreaking but it explains the situation he is in right now and also Ruth. I cannot even imagine. This poor, poor boy who adores and looks up to his mother and waits for her to walk in the front door; to come home to be with him.

    In retrospect, there are ways in which Ruth acts as a mother figure in the absence of Samuel’s birth mother. She looks out for him, feeds and clothes him, takes care of the house to live comfortably in, tries to make sure he stays out of trouble, urges him to do his homework and quit wasting time snooping around or silly-dallying home from school. She eats meals with him and engages in conversations with him. Gets him up for school and to bed on time. Yet...she is not his mother, but his caretaker and the estates’ housekeeper in his mother’s absence. I think the lines get blurred somewhere along the way.

    In the meantime, Samuel and Ruth are literally in each other’s faces at the house every day. Ruth is not very forthcoming to Samuel’s constant barrage of questions about his mother. So Samuel starts to do some super sleuthing of his own. He’s pretty good at it. I give this kid credit for a 9 year old mind! He gets caught many times; either he gets away with it or there’s a price to pay by Ruth. I mean, through this whole book, I didn’t know who to believe. I didn’t know who this poor child could turn to. I didn’t know how long he could survive in an environment, being taken care by someone other than family. I had questions about Ruth and her mental state. Was Ruth impersonating someone else? I had questions about a 9 year old boy who might be making up stories. I didn’t know if Ruth was right in saying that Samuel was touched in the head by all this commotion about his mother and if he went to the doctor, he might be institutionalized. The gardener was creepy and of absolutely no help. I didn’t know if Samuel’s mother was dead or alive or if she ran away to the States never to return! I didn’t know who took or what happened to the missing jewelry. The rabbit, Robin Hood, which was wild, but still a pet of Samuel’s, is missing and shows up in a stew pot at dinner, because as Ruth says, there’s no money and we do have to eat, so eat, Samuel, eat! GAH!!!! 🙀

    I’m stopping right here, right now, because the rest of the story lays ahead only for you to read on your own and whew, it’s a really good twisted, mind boggling tale.

  • Tammy

    A perfectly serviceable suspense novel that takes place within the confines of a manor house. A housekeeper is charged with the care of a nine year old boy during the absence of his mother. Needless to say things between them become rather tense and play out psychologically and otherwise until both reach their breaking point. The comparisons to Du Maurier and Shirley Jackson seem about right but I would add a whisper of Thomas Tryon.

  • Bookworm

    Thank you to Harlequin - Hanover Square Press and Stephen Giles for an advanced copy of The Boy at the Keyhole. This was a psychological brain teaser to say the least! There was much to be enjoyed with this book but also a little slow in places. If you are a big fan of slow burns that tease through plausible outcomes until the final reveal, this is a book that may appeal to you.

    The plot is about a 9-year-old boy living in England. His family home is bankrupt with most of the servants having alr

    Thank you to Harlequin - Hanover Square Press and Stephen Giles for an advanced copy of The Boy at the Keyhole. This was a psychological brain teaser to say the least! There was much to be enjoyed with this book but also a little slow in places. If you are a big fan of slow burns that tease through plausible outcomes until the final reveal, this is a book that may appeal to you.

    The plot is about a 9-year-old boy living in England. His family home is bankrupt with most of the servants having already been let go due to lack of money. Samuel’s mother has left in the middle of the night (without saying goodbye to Samuel) 4 months ago to travel around America with hopes of drumming up money to save their flailing family business. Samuel’s father died the year before so the one remaining housekeeper Ruth has been left in charge to care for the boy. Samuel misses his mother desperately and can’t understand why she left and has been gone so long. He pesters Ruth daily asking when will his mother be home? With only a handful of postcards that have been sent by his mom during her travels, Samuel is having a hard time comprehending how his mother could stand to be away from him for so long with hardly any contact. Then one day, after talking with his best friend Joseph, Samuel begins to contemplate if his mom really did go to America or did Ruth kill her? At the heart of this story is a little boy’s need to be with his mom and what can happen over time when this pain is left to fester.

    The author cleverly writes from a child’s perspective so we see simple deductions being made from a 9 year old’s mind. This adds a layer of suspense and uncertainty to the plot. I had no idea what the truth was until the very end. The descriptive prose is also well done although at times overwhelmed the plot for me. It was an intriguing mystery with robust character development and a fascinating psychological aspect exploring child obsession. An easy read that will keep you guessing.

  • MaryBeth's Bookshelf

    The Boy in the Keyhole has all the elements of a great thriller - a decaying estate in England, an abusive housekeeper, and a curious boy trying to figure out what happened to his mother. I could not put this book down, but the big, pivotal moment I was waiting for never materialized. I was extremely confused about the ending. It definitely kept my interest, but left me unsatisfied at the end.

  • Kendall

    Nine year old Samuel Clay lives with his housekeeper Ruth on an English estate. Samuel's father has died and his mother abruptly left in the middle of the night to America to help with their failing family business.

    It has been over 5 months since Samuel has spoken to his mother and he desperately is missing her. Samuel receives random postcards from his mother that he keeps in an atlas to map his mother's locations across America. Samuel is hoping and praying that his mother will return from Ame

    Nine year old Samuel Clay lives with his housekeeper Ruth on an English estate. Samuel's father has died and his mother abruptly left in the middle of the night to America to help with their failing family business.

    It has been over 5 months since Samuel has spoken to his mother and he desperately is missing her. Samuel receives random postcards from his mother that he keeps in an atlas to map his mother's locations across America. Samuel is hoping and praying that his mother will return from America to be with him again.

    As we all know as a child your imagination can run wild. Samuel's best friend Joseph starts to creep into Samuel's mind with probing questions of the circumstances to his mother's whereabouts. Why would she leave in the middle of the night?

    Soon, Samuel's imagination sends him searching locked doors, spying in the housekeeper's room, trying to get into the cellar, and anywhere he can get his hands on. Ruth starts to become more furious as each day passes with Samuel's behavior.

    The show down between Ruth and Samuel is a very SLOW burn. There wasn't much happening unfortunately throughout the entire novel... leading up to the reveal between Samuel and Ruth.

    This unfortunately was not cup of tea AT ALL. There was hardly any action and the final reveal to the plot was just SO disappointing. I can see how some readers may enjoy the dance between what is true and not true.

    And.. honestly that ending was AWFUL!!! I remember reading the last sentence/paragraph of the story and thinking what the heck was that?! And.. not to mention too many loose ends that didn't make sense to me?

    1.75 stars rounded down on this one for me.

    Thank you to Netgalley and Harlequin/Hanover Square Press for the opportunity to read this in exchange for my honest thoughts.

    Publication date: 9/4/18

    Published to GR: 7/15/18

  • Dennis

    While,

    promises a psychological horror showdown, it falls flat on its delivery. It's the early 1960s, and nine year old Samuel lives in this beautiful spacious estate in England, where he is being taken care of by his housekeeper Ruth. Samuel's father had passed away, leaving the family in financial disarray. Samuel's mother has ventured to America in pursuit of work so the family can get stable again—before the family loses their house. In the mean time, Ruth is Samuel'

    While,

    promises a psychological horror showdown, it falls flat on its delivery. It's the early 1960s, and nine year old Samuel lives in this beautiful spacious estate in England, where he is being taken care of by his housekeeper Ruth. Samuel's father had passed away, leaving the family in financial disarray. Samuel's mother has ventured to America in pursuit of work so the family can get stable again—before the family loses their house. In the mean time, Ruth is Samuel's primary caregiver, while also the house guardian. Samuel's mother has been gone for months now, only providing sporadic postcards to update the duo on her adventures in the United States.

    Samuel is desperate for his mother's return—Ruth runs the house with an iron fist, and he really doesn't want her authoritative behavior instilled on him any longer. After speaking with his best friend Joseph, he begins to believe that his mother is never coming home. Samuel even begins to believe that Ruth had something in his mother's disappearance. He begins covering his tracks, while trying to find out more clues about his mother, Ruth, and their relationship. As Samuel's investigation progresses, he and Ruth begin a game of cat-and-mouse. Ruth's frustration with Samuel deepens, as she tries to prevent Samuel from continuing his investigation. It's a battle of minds, and even though Samuel is young—he is not going to let this person destroy what he has left.

    just didn't work for me, but I think it'll polarize readers in general. It's definitely one of those books that you'll either really enjoy, or possibly dislike. I do think you should pick this book up if you're interested in a horror/mystery, and can handle a slow burn. Samuel and Ruth's battle begins early on, but the story really doesn't move fast enough for me. Each chapter afterwards just felt repetitive and drawn out.

    isn't even 300 pages, but could've been even shorter. While the writing was strong (writing from the perspective of a nine year old isn't easy), I just didn't connect to the story at all.

    Thank you Handover Press for my advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

    will be released September 4, 2018.

  • Judy

    Nine-year-old Samuel has been left in the care of the housekeeper, Ruth, for over 100 days while his mother went to America to try to raise money to save the family steel business. The story takes place mostly in the mind of Samuel - suspense that builds very slowly until both Samuel and Ruth are at each other's throats. The story doesn't come out and say what actually happened, but you get a pretty good idea. Not what I expected and really not the book for me, but it was interesting enough to f

    Nine-year-old Samuel has been left in the care of the housekeeper, Ruth, for over 100 days while his mother went to America to try to raise money to save the family steel business. The story takes place mostly in the mind of Samuel - suspense that builds very slowly until both Samuel and Ruth are at each other's throats. The story doesn't come out and say what actually happened, but you get a pretty good idea. Not what I expected and really not the book for me, but it was interesting enough to finish and I think the author certainly has talent - I just like a different type of story.

    Thanks to Stephen Giles and Harlequin/Hanover Square Press through Netgalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

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