This electrifying debut was the subject of a six-figure pre-empt in America and is a lead title for the publisher, an imprint of HarperCollins US. Australian rights were also pre-empted, in this instance by Penguin Random House Australia. They will publish later this month.
Earlier this year, the feature film rights to the book were snapped up by New Regency, whose Oscar-winning productions include 12 Years a Slave and The Revenant. Arnon Milchan, who has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture twice (L.A. Confidential and The Revenant), will be producing the project as reported in Variety and The Bookseller.
Set in the 1960’s, The Boy at the Keyhole features Samuel, a boy who lives alone in a once-great estate in Surrey with the family’s housekeeper, Ruth. His father is dead and his mother has been abroad for five months, purportedly tending to her late husband’s faltering business.
She left in a hurry one night while Samuel was sleeping and did not say goodbye.
Beyond her sporadic postcards, Samuel hears nothing from his mother. He misses her dearly and maps her journey in an atlas he finds in her study. Samuel’s life is otherwise regulated by Ruth, who runs the house with an iron fist. Only she and Samuel know how brutally she enforces order.
As rumors in town begin to swirl, Samuel wonders whether something more sinister is afoot.
Perhaps his mother did not leave, but was murdered—by Ruth.
Evoking the haunting, suspenseful style of Shirley Jackson and Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, The Boy at the Keyhole artfully balances mystery with suspense, and blurs the lines between truth and perception. It reminds us that even the most unassuming homes can belie shocking acts of menace.
Other authors have been quick to fall for The Boy At the Keyhole, with Charles Lambert, author of The Children’s Home, calling it a “relentless, claustrophobic tale about the constancy and opacity of love, where the truth must be terrible in order to be believed.” Matthew Sullivan, author of Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore found it “sinister and tight, amusing and intense,” while Lyndsay Faye, author of The Gods of Gotham has labelled it “a true tour-de-force of a debut novel.”
The Boy At The Keyhole is available at US booksellers and online from 4th September 2018