The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes
Following on from the huge success of psychological thrillers such as Before I go to Sleep, The Girl on The Train and Apple Tree Yard this genre of thriller is certainly dominating the bestseller lists. These books may be page turners, keeping us excited and enthralled - but they are nothing new. Sassy decided to take a look back at an early 20thcentury psychological thriller to see how they have changed over the decades.
Inspired by the Jack the Ripper murders of the late 1800s, The Lodger was written by Marie Belloc Lowndes in 1913.
Set almost entirely in the Marylebone home of Robert and Ellen Bunting and with only five main characters, it is hard to believe that Lowndes is able to build such an atmospheric and engaging storyline.
The Buntings are a hardworking couple who have left domestic service to set up their own boarding house. But times are tough, money is tight, they have no boarders to provide an income, and it seems the only choice is to pawn their belongings. Then, one foggy evening (they all seem to be foggy) there is a knock at the door and Mr Sleuth becomes their gentlemanly but eccentric and reclusive lodger.
London, at the time, is being haunted by a menacing serial killer known as the Avenger who is carrying out grizzly attacks on women of the night.
Ellen Bunting notices that Mr Sleuth is creeping out of the house late at night and becomes suspicious when the murders seem to occur on those very same nights. Lowndes continues to build upon this suspicion, leaving the reader to wonder if he is guilty or innocent. The answer is only revealed right at the very end.
Given the ‘old fashioned’ style of writing, the book is still easy to follow and keeps the reader riveted. The storyline is very linear and is simpler and less complicated than modern day thrillers – there aren’t the enticing twists and turns and flashbacks that are common today.
The book doesn’t focus on the gore (other than one creepy bit set in the Buntings’ kitchen), but more on the characters of the couple and how they deal with their rising suspicious, neither one of them communicating their fears to each other.
Overall, an enticing read – well worth it if you love psychological thrillers but fancy something a little different.
About the author
Marie Adelaide Elizabeth Rayner Lowndes, née Belloc (5 August 1868 – 14 November 1947), was a prolific English novelist. Born in Marylebone, London and raised in La Celle-Saint-Cloud, France, Mrs Belloc Lowndes was the only daughter of French barrister Louis Belloc and English feminist Bessie Parkes. In 1896, she married Frederick Sawrey A. Lowndes.(Wikipedia).