Forced Entry? by Bill Lockwood

Candle-Ends: Reviews
Ruth Ticktin

Front cover of the novel "Forced Entry?" by Bill Lockwood. Image of a young woman with long blonde hair looking out a window, with one arm across her forehead. Teaser text reads: A daughter and her boyfriend harassing her mother, and an overinvolved neighbor.

Forced Entry? by Bill Lockwood

The novel Forced Entry? by Bill Lockwood (The Wild Rose Press, 2022) is a fun twist on the usual who-done-it.

In the first chapter, after an intriguing excerpt and a historical note, we meet Henrietta and her new boyfriend plotting to terrorize Henrietta’s mother. In the course of the novel, we follow other characters who are trying to figure out who’s behind the fear-inducing, yet bumbling, clues that continue to occur.

Lockwood’s main narrator, Max, is having a great time playing detective. A rock musician turned history professor between gigs, he loves both performing and connecting the past to present. He believes there is a relationship between the Dark Ages, about which he is teaching a course that semester, and the New Age movement gaining momentum in California, where he is working in 1971.

Living next door to his friend Leila that spring, Max meets her adult daughter Henrietta who has recently come to stay with Leila. He is asked to help when Leila calls him, frightened by the notes that appear on the doors, windows, and mirrors of her house. The paint and lipstick scribbles are made-up verses with obscure threats about killing Henrietta.

Max tries decoding the numbers in the messages by comparing them to the witchcraft events of the Dark Ages in his lectures. Unsuccessful, it’s his girlfriend’s teenaged daughter who figures out the codes in the end. Max concocts a little scheme and then a final act to discover who is behind the scare tactic actions.

The dialogue of the teenager was not always believable and Max’s college history lesson plans didn’t always actually relate, but the story sailed through to a quite smooth reading experience. Some of the characters’ development, like Max’s girlfriend and his grandpa, were cursory. Some characters were typecast, like the aging actress and the witch. Ultimately that mattered less because we clearly had our heroes and the tongue-in-cheek writing was riveting.

Lockwood gave the reader valuable food for thought. We learned of our misunderstanding about modern witchcraft and their harmless lifestyle. We realized that the happy endings of English folklore don’t always take into account the plight of the Irish and their fight for independence.

Significantly, one moral of the story lasts: good and bad is not simply black and white. There is a lot of gray area. Involving the police was done with just the right light touch, as was purposefully not villainizing the wrongdoers. In this case there was no major reconciliation but rather a realization that there are important times to let it be and move on. A bit like Agatha Christie, we readers were left reassured by this cautionary but lighthearted tale.


Bill Lockwood is a retired social worker having had a lifelong passion for writing and participation in community theater. He currently writes articles about the arts and interesting people for The Shopper/Vermont Journal and covers local community theater for the Eagle Times of Claremont, NH. The Wild Rose Press has published six of his Historical Fiction novels: Buried Gold (2016), Megan of the Mists (2017), Ms. Anna (2018), The Monsignor’s Agents (2020), Gare de Lyon (2021), and Forced Entry? (2022). His short story “The Kids Won’t Leave” appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of Two Hawks Quarterly, and his story “Pizza, Pizza” appeared in The Raven’s Perch, April 28, 2021. Bill Lockwood is a frequent contributor to Toasted Cheese.


Ruth Ticktin coordinated programs, advised, and taught ESL in Washington DC and Maryland since 1977. Always inspired by shared stories, she’s the author of Was Am Going, Recollections Poetry & Flash (NewBayBooks, 2022), coauthor of What’s Ahead? (ProLinguaLearning, 2013), coeditor of Psalms (PoeticaPublishing, 2020) and a contributor to BendingGenres Anthology (2018-19), Art Covid-19 (SanFedelePress) and more.

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