Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1963
He tells the story first—Frederick Clegg, an obscure little clerk and a collector of butterflies who one day goes on to net his finest specimen, Miss Miranda Grey, a soft, lovely twenty-year-old.
In his colorless yet curiously expressive words, he tells of the months in which he stood by the office window and watched for the beautiful Miranda whenever she was home from art school. Then Frederick Clegg suddenly wins a fortune in a football pool and devises an ingenious way to make his dream come true:
I thought, I can’t get to know her in the ordinary way, but if she’s with me, she’ll see my good points, she’ll understand. There was always the idea she would understand. I only wanted to do the best for her, make her happy and love me a bit.
He buys a secluded country house and, when all preparations have been made, kidnaps Miranda from outside her apartment in London.
The body of the novel concerns the two months during which Miranda is held prisoner in the cellar of the house. The story is revealed first as he tells it, then as she secretly records it in a diary which begins:
It’s the seventh night.
Deep down I get more and more frightened. It’s only surface calm.
Waking up is the worse thing. I wake and for a moment I think I’m home or at Caroline’s. Then it hits me.
I don’t care what he does. So long as I live.
It’s all the vile unspeakable things he could do.
Power. It’s so real.
Try try try to escape.
It’s all I can think of.
A remarkable feat of imagination, “The Collector” is a novel of disquieting perception whose cumulative effect is all too memorable.