THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE by Laird Koenig, and film

PUBLISHER: Coward, McCann and Geoghegan, 4/1974
GENRE: Contemporary Suspense/Horror/Thriller
SETTING: Maine? New York? Not sure.
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: B

FROM PUBLISHER: Alone in the darkened house, with only fire's glow and thirteen flickering candles for illumination, silent except for the mounting chords of a Liszt concerto, Rynn was preparing a solemn celebration. Until a knock at the door shattered sanctuary.

Rynn is the little girl who lives in the house at the end of the lane with her father-or so she says. No one had seen the poet, Leslie Jacobs, for a long time, and though the pungent aroma of Gauloise filled the parlor with intimations of his presence, no one was certain he was there:

Not Mrs. Hallet, the real estate agent who'd rented the old house to the eminent English poet and his daughter and whose formidable manner, product of her impeccable Long Island lineage, brooked no betrayals, especially not from a thirteen-year-old...

Not her son Frank, whose Halloween visit, intruding on Rynn's birthday rituals, had been more trick than treat and whose own insidious motives would soon lock them both in a perilous contest of will...

Not the local policeman who came to call and, lured by what he had seen, returned...

Not the shy young amateur magician who arrived on an errand-and stayed to become confidant and co-conspirator...

Who was the little girl who lived in such strange seclusion at the end of the leaf-swept land? Lonely and innocent seeking shelter from a hostile world? Or consummate liar? Each for his own reason, the Hallets were determined to find out. And it was then that the terrible secrets of the house at the end of the lane emerged.

Moving with swift and shocking turnabout to a profoundly disturbing denouement, here is a fine and freezing novel of suspense that probes the subtle bonds of innocence to evil.


SPOILER REVIEW: Hmmm. What to say about a disturbed thirteen-year-old? Rynn's (played by Jodie Foster in the film) good at making people disappear when she feels threatened. Potassium cyanide's her friend. She was left all alone in a big house after her father drowned himself in the ocean. She's got no one now. The three-year lease on their house was paid in advance and she's got a shared bank account with her father so she doesn't actually need financial help from anyone. She claims her mother was abusive towards her when she was much younger so Rynn took care of her when she dared come around.

Frank Hallet, played by Martin Sheen in the film, is a creepy predator who likes the younger kind and is sniffing around after Rynn and she knows it...and doesn't like it one bit. He gets suspicious after his mother (played by Alexis Smith) goes missing after being at Rynn's to pick something up, something that's below the trap door in the cellar. He's a sick bastard. He burned both eyes of her pet rat Gordon with his cigarette. Rynn outwitted him in the end though, in a scene that made me laugh in excitement. It was better seeing that play out in the film than reading the written word.

I'm not sure what I think of sixteen-year-old magician Mario. I found him to be a little goofy in the film. He was played by Scott Jacoby (Bad Ronald). He went along with Rynn's plans without really asking questions and that bothers me.

As for Rynn's father, I'm not sure if he really did kill himself or if she did away with him. We aren't lead to believe foul play but it's a possibility. Why wouldn't it be?

THE 1976 FILM: ...was filmed in Canada. I think it should have been PG-13, not PG. The film stayed true to the novel for most of it. Rynn is from England yet we get American Jodie Foster in her roll, which really disappoints me. Her wig was terrible too. In the film, Rynn says she didn't know what she'd put in her mother's tea until after the damage was done but that's not so in the novel-she knew exactly what she was doing because she'd researched the poison in advance at the library.

I like Frank's character in the film better than in the book, probably because Martin plays him so well, though physically he's not what I'd imagined at all. I was picturing lighter hair.

Mario meets Rynn when he's riding his bike past her house and hears her trying to start Mrs. Hallet's car. In the book, they meet when he rides to her house to drive that car away after Rynn arranged for that to happen.

After they get back inside after being out in the rain, Mario gets under a blanket on the sofa and Rynn gets under the blanket with him, fully clothed. In the book, she strips down to bra and underwear first. There's also a bedroom scene where a body double for Jodie (Connie Foster) strips nude (shown from behind and the left side) and gets in bed with Mario. A thirteen-year-old with a sixteen-year-old?

Mrs. Hallet's death in the film was an accident but not in the book. For some reason they wanted Rynn to appear less murderous in the film, I guess trying to gain her a little sympathy but why I don't know.

I really liked Alexis Smith's acting, as well as Martin Sheen's. The man who played Officer Ron Miglioriti, Mario's uncle, his acting wasn't so great, nor was Jodie's. She didn't have much personality.

There's a scene in the film when Rynn stops in front of a book display in a bookstore's window. The books I see are:
Triad: A Novel of the Supernatural by Mary Leader
Beulah Land by Ronnie Coleman (I've had that for years)
Mission to Malaspiga by Evelyn Anthony
An Accident of Love by Mary Ellin Barrett
Come Winter by Evan Hunter

MY THOUGHTS: Overall, a decent read but I wish the atmosphere had been a bit more eerie and suspenseful. I don't know where this takes place. Rynn told someone that her father let her pick out a place in Maine to live but then, for a reason I can't remember, I thought maybe New York, so who knows? Looking forward to reading his 1970 novel The Children Are Watching.




No comments: