The Visitors by Catherine Burns
Published by Gallery/Scout Press on September 26, 2017 (expected)
Genre(s): fiction, mystery, suspense
Format & Pages: e-book, 288
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Marion Zetland lives with her domineering older brother, John in a decaying Georgian townhouse on the edge of a northern seaside resort. A timid spinster in her fifties who still sleeps with teddy bears, Marion does her best to shut out the shocking secret that John keeps in the cellar.
Until, suddenly, John has a heart attack and Marion is forced to go down to the cellar herself and face the gruesome truth that her brother has kept hidden.
As questions are asked and secrets unravel, maybe John isn’t the only one with a dark side.
The Visitors is one of the cases where I found the blurb to be somewhat misleading. I went into it anticipating a particular story and wound up being a bit disappointed when it didn’t seem to be going in the direction I had expected. But then it veered in an entirely different direction and the final result was better than what I originally imagined.
I made the mistake of starting this one night before going to bed. The sense of creeping unease from the very first page actually made me put it down in an attempt to not give myself nightmares. When I picked it up again the next day, in broad daylight, it seemed way less creepy. At first I chalked it up to the time of day. But now, looking back, I have to wonder if this was intentional. Throughout this novel, there is a constant push and pull between good and evil, peculiar and common, horror and sympathy, creepy and mundane. It’s not an all out creepfest, but somehow through the use of these dichotomies, Burns has created a story and characters that are even more horrifying as they feel thoroughly realistic.
Told mostly through Marion’s perspective in both present day and flashbacks through her childhood, with a few letters and emails interspersed, this is a very character driven story where none of the characters are particularly likable. I did, however, find them to be quite interesting and my feelings about each of them changed several times throughout the course of the novel.
To be clear, the pacing of this was pretty slow and I wouldn’t classify The Visitors as a thriller; the incident mentioned in the blurb doesn’t even happen until about three quarters of the way through. Although it was fairly easy to read between the lines and determine what was really going on, I still found it to be a suspenseful and fascinating study. Recommended to fans of the show Criminal Minds or anyone who is intrigued by the inner workings of why people do the things they do.
*Thanks to the publisher for providing an arc of this edition via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.