I’ve read at least one full-length book by Lawrence Block before, one of his Bernie Rhodenbarr series, but I don’t remember which one. I also enjoyed his story in the Christmas at The Mysterious Bookshop collection, so I expected to like this one too and I wasn’t disappointed.

The subject of hoarding is popular lately, from tv shows to books. It seems to both fascinate and repel people, and this story is Block’s contribution to the phenomena. The story is told in a unique format. It’s all dialogue and short passages giving us the inner thoughts of the main character, Dorothy, or Dolly to her friends.

In the beginning of the story, two representatives of Child Protective Services show up at Dorothy’s door, telling her that the neighbor’s are worried about her children. Dorothy explains that her children left, they couldn’t stand living with her stuff anymore so they took off, maybe went to live with their father. After seeing the state the house is in, they refer her case to Adult Protective Services who come in and clean out her house. As they go through her “trash and treasures,” what they discover becomes more and more horrifying.

The dialogue is crisp and gives the reader a clear understanding of the situation. The parts that I found noteworthy though were what Dolly is thinking. She knows how nutty she must seem to others, but she has her reasons for keeping everything. I understood how much she missed her family, but she honestly couldn’t help it. And how she felt at the end was heartbreaking and frightening at the same time, to see what her situation led to.

4,347 words
Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine May 2011

4 out of 5 stars

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