One of my favorite genres in any form of media is children’s thriller/horror. From Courage the Cowardly Dog and Over the Garden Wall in television to Gremlins and Coraline in the movies, I thoroughly believe the most underrepresented genre that has the most potential is horror thrillers for children. The Boy at the Keyhole by Stephen Giles, while not written necessarily for children or in the vein of horror, is a good book for studios to adapt in this genre.
The Boy at the Keyhole is a story of nine-year-old Samuel who lives with his housekeeper, Ruth, in an old estate in Surrey that is quickly declining. Samuel’s father has died and his mother left for America in the night, without saying goodbye, in an attempt to save the family’s failing business—or at least that is what Ruth told him. As the story unravels, more and more evidence makes it apparent to Samuel that his evil housekeeper has murdered his mother in an attempt to take over the estate.
This book is absolutely fantastic up until the last thirty pages (rough estimate). A major issue I have with a lot of books in the mystery/psychological thriller genre is that many do not stick the standing and grind the pacing to a halt. That said, The Boy at the Keyhole is still a very serviceable suspense novel. The characters of Samuel and Ruth will bring out the best and worst emotions in you (there is a specific plot point that immediately made me completely turn around on my opinion of Ruth). It is shame that the ending was so vague and unfulfilling because, otherwise, I fell like this could have been a future staple of middle-grade literature.
As briefly alluded to, this is definitely not specifically written with children as a target audience. Between the language and specific imagery, it is definitely more of a middle-grade and higher read. That said, this novel is a goldmine for the demographic that would blend in perfectly with other entries in the genre (Coraline, The House with a Clock in Its Walls, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, etc). The option of adaption into a movie would also, hopefully, fix the book’s ending to shoot the story’s rating much higher.
In April 2018. Variety’s Justin Kroll reported the the movie rights for the novel had been acquired by New Regency and a movie was in development. Since then, as everybody is aware, New Regency’s distribution company, 20th Century Fox, was purchased by Disney. So, it is unknown if work on the project is still in development or if the project has been scrapped. Hopefully, it still happens and goes down my proposed route of spinning it into a family-friendly psychological thriller/horror.
Book Review: 3/5