Inside is Outside
By: Peter Bolton
Length: 553 pages
Release date: Sep 23, 2013
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The novel’s central character is Lotte Shoebuckle, a reclusive woman who lives at World’s End at the top of a hill. During the Second World War, Lotte became pregnant but lost the child and, after her father’s death, she spent many years in an asylum until diagnosed as autistic. Obsessed with the child that never was, she lives in a universe that has dimensions of its own. After being taught to paint by way of therapy, she has spent much of her time depicting that universe but her work is too disturbing for public display and is collected in her attic gallery. Her other passion is for ballroom dancing of the kind found at the former imperial Russian court.
Lotte sees that her universe is closing on the outside world - a collision is imminent. As a result of this, she sees things from the inside and it is not long before she witnesses the murder of a prostitute. Lotte has sought help at random from a young woman - Pamela Street, who is drawn into contact with Royd Finch, a handsome young bachelor with strong environmental interests. He lives with his parents at the foot of the hill and he in turn encounters Shelley Kavanagh, another prostitute, having a fix near his home. His parents think it time to move.
Royd and Shelley are mutually attracted but that must remain an unspoken impossible dream. The novel shows how he involves himself in other amorous adventures. Whilst Shelley lies injured from a bonfire accident, the murder takes place on Royd’s doorstep, thus blighting his parents’ hopes of selling.
Developers are building on the hillside and they covet Lotte’s land. Pamela acts for her but Royd’s environmental interests put him initially on the wrong side. Lotte is adamant and various unsuccessful attempts are made to prove her insane.
After seeing Royd with another girl, Shelley runs away but in Penrith her craving for drugs leads her to commit a vicious assault on a frail old woman. Lotte escapes too, to take a short holiday in Borrowdale. She accidentally picks Shelley up and brings her home, whereupon both realise their fates are intertwined. Another murder takes place in Shelley’s absence.
Royd meets Lotte and dances with her. His allegiance changes when he discovers that Lotte and Shelley have met. Nevertheless, he and Pamela become close. Lotte shows Shelley her paintings and persuades her to go to an art class. This infuriates her pimp, Victor, who volunteers to tip Lotte’s mind by setting fire to her gallery. The paintings are destroyed and Lotte and Royd are left to die in the fire. Victor has also to dispose of Shelley, but Lotte finds her inside and it is he himself who perishes.
With her home severely damaged, Lotte aims to lose everything but how is her child to be born? Shelley wants to become an artist and is now free to go into rehab, except that she must face up to her crime. Moreover, she wants to square with the killer, whom Inspector Seagars believes to be primarily after her. However, only one thing is certain – Lotte and Shelley must meet in a collision of universes and it seems likely that neither of them will come out of it alive.