Delacorte, May 2002, 23.95, 310 pp.
Ruth Gemmill travels from London to remote Greenwall to find her younger brother Alex, a teacher in the small village, who apparently has disappeared. Ruth, a victim of relational abuse from her former boyfriend Matt, thinks her sibling might be a gay bashing casualty.
However, almost upon her arrival in Greenwall, she learns that the school Alex taught at does not exist and no one will confess they know him. Stunned she visits his apartment complex only to find no one willing to speak of Alex as if they are all frightened of the consequences of talking with an outsider. Worse is the eerie gray figure that seems to follow Ruth everywhere, but remains just on the edge of her vision. Everyone fears and mistrusts Ruth who though quite frightened by all she sees and meets refuses to leave without learning what happened to Alex.
On first brush, THE LONELY PLACES feels like paint by the numbers horror tale as all the expected incidents occur. Through Ruth's fears and flashbacks, readers gain a full understanding of her and the two men in her life. This makes the tale into a powerfully creepy psychological suspense story as the audience wants Ruth to escape the spiders and their webs that threaten to engulf her. The gray figure is as frightening a character one will encounter lurking on the edge of the heroine's vision and the mind of the reader. Fans of psychological suspense will enjoy this thriller that partially resides in the horror genre too.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner