The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes is book 15 in the #20BooksofSummer challenge!

Content Warnings: murder, descriptions of murder weapons, near starvation, talk about hangings.

While I try hard not to change the books I’ve added to my list for the #20BooksofSummer challenge, one of the big motives for having book blog friends is to share books, consider recommendations, and connect even more after we’ve read the same books. What do I mean? FictionFan recommended The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes recently, so I kicked one book off my list of 20 so that I could read her recommendation and chitter-chatter with her. Isn’t it neat that book bloggers can do that?

The Lodger was first published in 1913, and I listened to the audio book version, read by Lorna Raver. The novel is about the Buntings, a husband and wife who own a house with rooms to rent. Lately, two things affect them deeply: their lack of a lodger means they’re broke and nearly starving to death, and some brutal murders are happening in their area of London, murders committed by someone who calls himself “The Avenger.” The plot is a clear parallel to the Jack the Ripper murders in London in 1888. The Ripper murdered prostitutes; The Avenger seems to be killing women who take to the drink.

the lodger 2

Mr. and Mrs. Bunting don’t suffer from near starvation for too long in the novel (we start with them nearly starved and quickly move on). One night, a knock on the door brings them Mr. Sleuth, an eccentric gentleman looking for a place to stay where he will be left alone, far from the other folks in the house, and where he can access a stove that reaches high temperatures for his experiments. He finds the Buntings’ lodgings perfect; in fact, he rents two rooms, and the Buntings’ financial worries are over.

As time goes on, Mrs. Bunting suspects her lodger is The Avenger. He leaves after midnight, returns before dawn, reads passages in the bible about punishment aloud in his room. But really, she can’t completely convince herself he’s a murderer, and she won’t believe it until it’s completely confirmed — he’s a real gentleman (with money)! She’s alone in her concerns because Mr. Sleuth only wants Mrs. Bunting to bring his meals and clean his rooms, so other characters forget he’s there.

the lodger 3

The great thing about Lowndes’s plot is the tension she creates. Mrs. Bunting both defends and fears her lodger. His money keeps her alive, but does that make her complicit in the London murders that has everyone all a tizzy? If she tells the police her suspicions, but she’s wrong about her lodger, he’ll certainly move out. Tension thickens when Daisy, Mr. Bunting’s daughter from his first marriage, arrives for a visit. Typically, she lives with “old aunt,” but now a young girl in the house . . . and possibly a murderer (muh-hahaha!!).

And then there’s Joe Chandler, a young police officer who is friends with the Buntings and drops by with tidbits about the police force’s work to find The Avenger that haven’t yet made it into the newspapers. I was always on edge, waiting to see who would crack, who would die, and who would identify the serial killer!

It doesn’t help when Joe Chandler takes Mr. Bunting and Daisy to the museum of murderers where they see actual murder weapons and plaster casts of faces of those hanged, which capture the killer in great detail. All I could think about was the hygiene and medicine of the day. Add to the recipe murder and hanging, and I was feeling a bit pukey.

My audio book narrator added a lot of tension in her voice. Each character had a distinct sound, so in a sense, Lorna Raver acted the book (and I wonder what FictionFan thinks about that; she, too, is an audio book consumer). But I felt Daisy’s sweet, young voice really set her apart from the shouty, stressed-out Mrs. Bunting (who is shouty and stressed out because her source of income may be slaying — and not in the way people use that word today!). Best of all, Lorna Raver provided a clear yet rapidly-paced narration, which kept this book from dragging on (it’s 8 hours/30 minutes). Highly recommended; a great horror tale!

20 books 2017
This is book #15 in the #20BooksofSummer challenge, hosted by Cathy at 746 Books!
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31 thoughts on “The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes is book 15 in the #20BooksofSummer challenge!

  1. Ooh! So glad you enjoyed it! I loved the way she set the thing up by showing us how close the poor Buntings were to starvation and losing everything – it made Mrs Bunting’s reluctance to go to the police so much more credible. I also loved that we got a little bit at the end that set my mind at rest about them. I do like narrators to differentiate between the different characters – it makes it easier for me to keep track of who’s in a particular scene. If a narrator does it all in one voice I find I get lost quite easily and it can also put me to sleep (like Toni Morrison’s narration of Beloved – great writer, totally monotone narrator!) Have you had a chance to watch the film yet?

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    1. I haven’t seen the film, and I don’t think I’ve read that particular novel by Morrison. You wrote in a recent review that you don’t care for voice narrators who “act” parts. What do you mean by that? I thought for sure you meant doing voices!

      I really like the ending with suddenly Mr. and Mrs. Bunting realize they’ve both snuck out of the house, and thus Daisy is left alone!

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      1. Hmm… I must just have been talking about one particular book, I think, because in general I don’t mind so long as it’s well-acted. However, if it’s a male reader trying to do the voice of a female child or something, then it can often just sound a bit odd and that would put me off. Sometimes just using a subtly different tone works just as well or better – like Colin Firth in The End of the Affair, where he didn’t “act” the woman’s part but still conveyed a rather softer, gentler tone of voice. I actually love what they’ve been doing recently with having multiple narrators and incidental sound effects and so on – I think it really brings the books to life. And you must read Beloved!! Stunning book!

        Ha, yes – I loved the bit when they both realised the other one had suspicions too…

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  2. I’m going to look out for the audio book. One of the things I really enjoy about listening is how well good readers act the voices. In fact when they speak something and then say “Jane said” I nearly always think ‘Duh, I recognised the voice’. Today I listened to Ender’s Game and that was different again, as it had one actor per character – so more of a radio play than a book, but very listenable.

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      1. Unlike you and Fiction Fan I generally don’t like sound effects – some US detective stories have gunshots and sirens which I find annoying. I like having a story read to me, by one person, modulating their voice subtly when different characters are speaking. Must be my inner child!

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  3. Ooh, this sounds fantastic and I’d never even heard of it, thanks for your review. Although, how “horror” is it? I am okay with blood and guts, and generally with psychological thriller elements, but if there is a paranormal plot that is where a book tends to lose me. (If you don’t want to put it in a comment, are you happy to DM on Twitter?)

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  4. I love it when a recommendation from another book blogger sparks conversation! There have definitely been times I’ve deviated from my TBR purely to read a recommendation from another book lover. There’s something amazing about that connection which always draws me in. I’m glad that you really enjoyed this book!

    Horror isn’t for me, but this sounds really intriguing! There’s just something about the psychological thriller genre which gives me nightmares… I love audiobooks with quality narrators. There are books I have read purely because I love the narrator. I will definitely keep an eye out for Raver’s other works. Hopefully, they aren’t all horror! O_o

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    1. I’m not sure what else she writes. I had never heard of her before FF’s review, and I didn’t check out anything else she wrote. Right now I’m listening to the 3rd vampire book in the Dark Ones series that I started (lord help me). While I really enjoy the vampire audio books, the narrators have to be PERFECT for me to really engage with the story. Some of them, so far, have not been just the right voice.

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      1. I totally get the need for the best narrator to make connections in audiobooks. There are a few narrators that I intentionally seek out when I’m hunting for new books to read. I never thought I’d be that person, but here I am. The world is a fascinating place.

        I hope that the Dark Ones series turns out to be worthwhile in the end!

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  5. Every time I read a review by you about an audio thriller, it makes me want to pick it up. I wish there was more time in the day to listen to audio books. I feel like I’m really missing out, but there’s that little voice telling me I can get more done if I just read the darn book on my own.

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  6. Great review. I need to read this book. I don’t read horror a lot but I am intrigued. The situation that you described sounds very tense that I just want to know how it will end. Its interesting how the author took time to build the tension but showing how life was for the owners with their struggles and near starvation. The desperation ups the tension. Okay, this id definitely one for my TBR.

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