The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes
One of Ernest Hemingway’s suggested readings in A Moveable Feast was Marie Belloc Lowndes’ suspense novel The Lodger, based on Jack the Ripper and published in 1914. What an interesting study it is, to say the least, and what a difference has come about in the English language in just 104 years.
Set in the heart of London, Mr. and Mrs. Bunting are on the verge of losing everything when a queer man, (queer in the 1914 sense of the word) arrives at the door and pays them a tidy sum for use of their upstairs rooms. This averts the Buntings from heading to the poor house.
Murders begin happening round about their area of London by a man calling himself The Avenger and it is near half the book when Mrs. Bunting begins to make work of the timely connections between the murders and the activities of her lodger, who calls himself, Mr. Sleuth.
The writing is superb, and I found it quite charming the way British English was used to tell this tale of mystery. Terms such as “hark,” and “queer” are used frequently throughout the novel and are hardly used today or have a far different meaning than they did when the book was written.
There was a time while reading when I wondered, (there was a big reward offered for Mr. Sleuth,) why the Buntings didn’t turn Mr. Sleuth in, (they had a detective, Mr. Joe Chandler coming round their place by the day to see Mr. Bunting’s daughter, Daisy, and easily could have given him a clue) but it was explained somewhere around Chapter 22 that having the law mixed up in their affairs would have cost them their reputations as gentlepersons in London and they would have been tarnished for the rest of their lives. But if they’d had the reward money, seems as if they could have moved off to the English countryside somewhere and not bothered with T London culture said about them ever again. I guess I’m thinking too much into the story.
I won’t tell you how it ends. You will have to read it for yourself. Though I suppose on one hand the previous paragraph was something of a spoiler, I did not, however, tell you what does happen, so I suppose that leaves it as fair game.
This is a highly-acclaimed thriller and I admit the book did keep me entertained. Why we humans find so much fascination in tales about the morbidity of the minds of mass murders one will never know.
The book is an excellent read at 252 pages. Worth every bit of the time. Pour yourself a spot of tea. Lock the doors and windows and hope Mr. Sleuth doesn’t have an inkling to cut your throat….