Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Visitors

The Visitors by Catherine Burns
Gallery/Scout Press: 9/26/17
eBook review copy; 304 pages
ISBN-13: 9781501164019

The Visitors by Catherine Burns is a recommended debut novel featuring a psychological character study.

Marion Zetland is in her mid-fifties and lives with her domineering older brother, John, in a decaying Georgian townhouse they inherited along with sizeable trust funds. While John is a cantankerous abusive bully, Marion remains living with him, probably because she has the emotional and mental acumen of a young girl. Marion, who is the narrator of the novel, has been bullied her whole life so life with John is normal. She has her stuffed animal friends to comfort her, along with her imaginary friend.

What she'd really like to ignore, and does a questionably admirable job doing just that, is the visitors in the cellar. She knows John has women down there. He says he's teaching them English and mathematics. She sometimes hears cries, screams and calls for help, which she chooses to not think about.

The narrative alternates between Marion's experiences in the present and flashbacks to her past. she does a lot of ruminating/thinking about her life and the mistreatment she has experienced at the hands of others. John is, naturally, a part of her inner dialogue and he was just as disagreeable as a child as he is as an adult. Marion relates key details about her life that will come into play much later in the novel. Interspersed between Marion's inner dialogue are email exchanges with someone that will be understood at the end of the novel.

While I did appreciate some elements of this character driven novel and the unreliable narrator we find in Marion, I also need to admit that this one was slow going for me and was not a particularly compelling thriller. It's more a psychological character study than a thriller. I forced myself to get through Marion's endless stories. In the end, her stories do have a point to them, but reaching the end is a bit of a slog-through them. I also need to note that John is not hospitalized until the last third of the novel. Based on the synopsis you expect this to happen much sooner than it does and, well, most readers aren't going to be so horrified at Marion's discovery of his secret because of all the foreshadowing.

The quality of the writing is good, but the slow pacing removes much of the suspense. I wasn't surprised at any twists or revelations unveiled at the end. Adding to this lack of suspense is the lack of sympathy that I could muster for any of the characters, including Marion. This was just an okay novel for me.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Gallery/Scout Press.

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