“The Boy at the Keyhole,” by Stephen Giles
2 star , 2018 Publication , Novella , thriller / October 6, 2018

“The Boy at the Keyhole,” by Stephen Giles, is a thriller set in post-war England, at the manor house of a once wealthy family. Nine year old Samuel is a half orphan, his father dead from a tragic fall. His beloved mother has gone to the USA to try to secure investment capital in their failing business… or has she? As housekeeper Ruth gets increasingly dictatorial he starts wondering more and more whether his mother is actually in the USA… or if Ruth killed her so she can “swan about the place like Lady Muck.” If we can stomach this conceit, it’s a tightly written thriller about a hidden murder, or perhaps the spiraling insanity of a small child. Unfortunately the idea falls apart at the slightest bit of critical thinking. The problem with Ruth wanting control of the estate is that there’s nothing to control or enjoy. A woman who never wanted children, or to care for children, is left the sole caretaker of a bright but weird (and friendless) little kid. I have a 9 year old. I love him dearly. He’s also difficult to take care of in that tedious yet needy way that all (most?) 9…

“Likho,” by Andy Stewart

“Likho,” by Andy Stewart, is a speculative fantasy near-future/alternate present novella about a young woman who goes somewhere she shouldn’t and learns something she shouldn’t… just as she did as a child. Set in Pripyat, Ukraine, the story follows Sonya as she travels into the Forbidden Zone in search of a mural that is rumored to change on repeat viewings, slowly revealing the story of what happened and the children who were abandoned there. Like the abandoned children, Sonya was adopted. She feels some kind of link with them. And as she studies the mural the link feels ever more real. “Likho” is a great story, well told. Sonya is an interesting character who is fleshed out fully yet subtly. Although Stewart doesn’t have the space of a novel to introduce us to her, it’s still easy to get a feel for who she is and what motivates her. As bits of her past are unfolded, it makes sense why someone who seems so grounded and full of common sense would trapise into a radiation zone and then take a drug that allows one to see the future (or maybe the past). (the drug is called yaga and it turns…