Lowndes drew inspiration for this 1913 novel from the Jack the Ripper slayings, but the author’s genius lay in whom she chose to play her protagonist: a frumpy, middle-aged landlady. Just as Dostoyevsky placed readers inside the guilty mind of Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, Lowndes puts the psychological in “psychological thriller” by lodging us firmly within the rattled thoughts of “Mrs. Bunting,” an oh-so-proper English maid who grows increasingly paranoid, fearful, and – hold on – attracted to the mysterious gentleman who takes rooms at her boardinghouse … and who also takes late-night “walks” through the fog-shrouded streets of London.
Lowndes draws parallels between the way we deal with horror in the abstract (visits to the “Black Museum” and Madame Tussauds are good fun) and the reality of having a serial killer in your house (not so fun). Above all, The Lodger is a testament to the power of suggestion, because not knowing what’s in the lodger’s handbag is more chilling than actually knowing.
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