The Boy at the Keyhole, by Stephen Giles

They say that the mind can play terrible tricks on a person. After reading The Boy at the Keyhole, by Stephen Giles, it appears that this truism has no age limit. Samuel Clay is nine-years-old and he has been wondering for months where his mother is. He doesn’t like Ruth, the woman who has been taking care of him and the house. All he has to go on are the postcards that occasionally show up around the United States. Samuel has been holding on to his hope for months now, but then his only friend puts an idea in his head. What if Ruth killed Samuel’s mother?

Being nine-years-old, Samuel doesn’t have a lot of weapons in his arsenal. No one would trust someone his age over Ruth. The postcards keep messing up Samuel’s theories. He has no evidence. Ruth keeps a sharp eye on Samuel, so he doesn’t have a chance to collect any evidence. Whenever Samuel lets slip that he thinks Ruth did something terrible, she manages to either explain it all away or she diverts the conversation into something that upsets Samuel enough that he drops the topic for the moment.

The Boy at the Keyhole is the strangest cat-and-mouse game I’ve ever read. Personally, I kept wavering between thinking Samuel was on to something and thinking that Ruth was completely innocent. After all, what’s more likely? A housekeeper killing her employer and taking care of his son for some reason…Or, that a woman who has been documented to not love her child would take any opportunity to escape? Both and awful. Both are also entirely plausible.

There is a solution at the end of The Boy at the Keyhole that was so surprising that I had to go back and reread the last chapter because I was confused. I’m still not sure I entirely buy the conclusion, but I really enjoyed everything up until then. I loved the originality of the characters and the way that Giles was able to create so much tension out of so few tangible clues. This book is really good apart from my quibble about the ending. Maybe if I hadn’t been racing through the book so quickly, I might have picked up on a few more clues.

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