The Lodger is a psychological suspense novel by the English author Marie Adelaide Belloc Lowndes. It was written around 1913, and loosely based on the theme of ‘Jack the Ripper’.
In a costly city London, Ellen Bunting and Robert Bunting having tough time managing their needs, they are financially limited. Once they were in service but have given up that long. To tide over their needs, they now have allowed some rooms of their house for lodgers. But, Ellen is quite peculiar with her preferences and choices. Soon, they get Mr. Sleuth as a lodger – he is a silent gentleman. Though nothing is bad about him, but he sounds clumsy. He has paid the rent in advance. Where did he come from is arcane. He wakes up anytime, reads quote from Bibles especially that goes against women. He says that he is a man of science, so on the gas stove he boils some or other thing anytime at night. Parallel to this story, newspapers are full of horrid murders of women. A serial killer kills drunkard women and pins a note from Bible on their bodies. Ellen Bunting has grown fearful of these stories and often avoids discussing it with her husband. Gradually, she grows suspicion about Mr. Sleuth as a serial killer. But there is a dilemma, if she reports his behavior to the police, they may land up in trouble, or what the lodger is an innocent man with clumsy outlook.
The novel is staged against the famous London fog and one night Robert Bunting watches Mr. Sleuth taking walk wearing rubber-soled shoes. And newspapers reports and police investigation all point to one fact that the murderer wears rubber shoes. Robert grows suspicious of him all the more. It is a dark story; things grow more mysterious when Daisy, Buntings’ daughter arrives home before Christmas.
One day both Buntings move out of the home without informing one another for some shopping. When they confront each other, their faces go pale, and they very well know what’s going in their minds, they share the same fear. They run back for Daisy. She is fine in the house. There are many elements and personal assumptions (like newspapers reports, fog, rubber shoes, acrid smell) that add darker aspects to the novel and all together made it a murder mystery. The writing style of the author is neither simple nor lucid. It is a good read, but the way the author has tumulted the story is something special that makes it more thrilling than anything else.