The Thief of Always

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

“The great grey beast February” has Harvey Swick in its cold clutches as he desperately wishes for a way out of boredom. In answer to his plea, a stranger named Rictus flies in from the rain and extends an invitation to visit “a place where the days are always sunny. . .and the nights are full of wonders.” Rictus returns in a week to guide Harvey crosstown and through a barrier of mist to the Holiday House. There Harvey meets two other children, Wendell and Lulu, and Mrs. Griffin, who cooks wonderful treats for the children to eat whenever they want.

Harvey finds the House and grounds a marvel where morning is springtime, afternoon is summer, evening brings fall, and every night is Christmas. He is given whatever he wants, including favorite toys lost long ago and restored by the magical house. But not all is sunshine and beauty; Harvey discovers a cold, slimy pond full of huge pale fish that no one will explain. The hints of evil purpose accumulate, and after Harvey witnesses the fishy transformation of Lulu before she dives into the pool, he wants to leave Holiday House.

Harvey and Wendell barely escape an attack by the flying monster, Carna, who tried to keep them from crossing the barrier. Back in town, Harvey finds things changed, and his parents incredibly aged. For each day he spent at Holiday House, a year passed in the outside world. Convinced that the House, and its owner, Mr. Hood, are stealing the souls of the children lured inside, and wanting his lost years with his parents back, Harvey takes Wendell back to confront their host.