Library Journal Review
A neogothic set in a downward-spiraling manor house in midcentury Cornwall inhabited by nine-year-old Samuel and housekeeper/nanny Ruth, who owes much to Cinderella's stepsisters, this novel keeps readers turning the page almost in spite of themselves. Samuel's father is dead, his steel business foundering, and Samuel's mother has gone to America for months seeking funds, with no correspondence. The problem: Samuel's mother never told him she was leaving, and he so dotes on her that in her incommunicado absence, his febrile imagination decides that Ruth has murdered her. Thus it plays out with various machinations by Samuel to find the "truth" and parry the mean, overbearing, and violent Ruth to thwart him. Could Ruth have done it? This claustrophobic novel features an old house and a cast of two (oh, a few side characters), neither terribly psychologically developed. The abrupt ending is somewhat ambiguous, with a tacked-on chapter in a police station raising more questions than answers, leaving readers to ask, wait, shouldn't there be more here? VERDICT Enjoyable reading along the way despite the abundance of clichés, but the sudden denouement is a letdown.-Robert E. Brown, Oswego, NY © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
In Giles's nightmarish first novel for adults, after the children's novel The Death (and Further Adventures) of Silas Winterbottom: The Body Thief, nine-year-old Samuel Clay lives on an estate in Cornwall, England, with only the tyrannical housekeeper, Ruth Tupper, for company. Samuel's mother, a widow, has gone to America to take care of her late husband's business, having left at night without saying goodbye to Samuel. She does, however, send him postcards from America. But after four months, Samuel, who misses his mother, has begun to get ideas in his head (thanks to his hyper-imaginative schoolmate, Joseph): maybe his mother's been murdered by Ruth, who buried her body in the basement and has been getting a confederate in America to send those postcards to him. The more closely he observes Ruth, who perhaps has secrets to hide, the more firmly he comes to believe that his suspicions are true. But it's not until he actively begins to search for proof that Ruth's behavior really begins to seem suspicious. Told entirely from Samuel's point of view, the novel is so adeptly constructed and controlled that Ruth becomes a chilling study in ambiguity. Like Laird Koenig's cult classic The Little Girl Who Lives down the Lane, this novel dramatically tests the limits of youthful innocence when faced with adult mendacity. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Booklist Review
Leaving him in the care of the stern housekeeper, Ruth, without even saying goodbye, nine-year-old Samuel's beloved mother has gone for six weeks to America, where she is ostensibly searching for loans to shore up the family business. But is she really? Oh, sure, she has sent the boy a paltry seven postcards, but otherwise there has been nothing but silence. So when a school friend tells him a probably apocryphal story about a German housekeeper who murdered her employers, Samuel becomes certain that Ruth has murdered his mother. But he has no proof. Then, spying on her through the keyhole in the door to her room, he sees her writing something at her desk and he becomes convinced she is recording the truth about his mother in a diary. Surely this will prove she is a murderer. Won't it? In his first novel for adults he also writes children's books under the pen name Caleb Krisp Australian author Giles offers a neat little thriller with enough red herrings and clever ambiguities to keep the pages turning on the way to a disturbing, surprise ending. And, oh, about that rabbit . . .--Michael Cart Copyright 2018 Booklist