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 by Catherine Burns
Publication Date: September 26, 2017 by Gallery/Scout Press
Oh my god, what is there to say about this book other than I absolutely loved it?!
The Visitors is a psychological thriller with an unreliable narrator who is (semi) equal parts sympathetic and not. This is less of a traditional “horror” story and more of a character study which just happens to be more up my alley.
The entire novel is told from the point of view of Marion, a 50-something woman who has never lived anywhere other than her family home. At the time the reader is introduced to her, both of her parents have passed away and she is living with her older brother. Marion has never had a romantic relationship and only failed attempts at friendship throughout her life. It’s difficult to determine if she’s intellectually disabled or just so damaged from her disturbing childhood that she’s come to embody the type of person her mother always told her she was.
Early on, it becomes clear to the reader that Marion is aware of what her brother John is doing in the cellar and her complacency makes it difficult to feel entirely sympathetic for her. Yet, there were still times where my heart broke for the younger Marion and it’s easy at times to understand why Marion never stands up to her brother. In the glimpses we get of her upbringing, John is painted as a sociopath early on without ever being directly implicated in some of the awful things that occur.
The chapters switch back and forth between the present and Marion’s memories of her childhood which slowly begins to put together the pieces for the reader to understand who Marion and John are as adults. Traumatic experiences are told only from Marion’s point of view so it often is left to the reader to make inferences – something that becomes questionable by the end of the novel and left me having doubts about my earlier assumptions about Marion’s character.
For all his faults, John loved her and she loved him. Without him there would be no one. He was there on birthdays and at Christmas. He might only buy her something cheap or forget to buy her a present at all, but at least he was there. Someone to get angry with for not doing the right thing was better than no one at all.
Despite how horrific her brother is, Marion is so frightened of being alone that she often justifies his behavior. It was easy to identify Marion as a victim for much of the book, but yet it was still uncomfortable to know she could have done something to stop him. As the novel progresses, Marion’s innocence becomes questionable as well and a lot of questions are left unanswered by the end of the book – a style that isn’t for all readers, but I happen to love!
The Visitors is a slow-burning story that leaves a lot up to the reader to determine since everything is told solely from Marion’s point of view. I would recommend this book to readers who prefer psychological thrillers that make you think rather than those that are more plot-driven.