Pub. Date: September 26, 2017
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Gallery/Scout Press!
Summary: 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.
Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Marion’s entire life has been lived in the shadows. Early on she learned she was and would never be a great beauty, with her pasty complexion, extra pounds, and plain features. Her mother’s domineering presence ensured Marion would never live an independent life and now, in her 50s, she’s living with her brother John in the house they grew up in, a house that’s beginning to show its age.
Although Marion would love to have a husband and a family, she’s content with this arrangement: she collects her teddy bears and cooks boxed meals for dinner while trying to ignore the cries coming from the basement. That’s John’s territory and she knows never to go down there…until the day John has a heart attack. Stuck in a hospital bed, John has no way of caring for his visitors – Marion must venture downstairs and come face-to-face with the secrets her brother has been keeping.
I’ll cut right to the chase: The Visitors promises a creepy, chilling read and it just doesn’t deliver. There wasn’t a single character to root for and while I’m okay with that, it made for an unsatisfying read. Much of the novel is devoted to flashbacks of Marion and John’s childhood, of little instances where John expressed his violent nature. I get that Marion wasn’t overly bright, but there were no dark secrets here, it’s clear from the very beginning that John has women chained up in the basement. Marion even goes with him to collect the poor girls! She knew what was going on in the basement long before John’s heart attack forced her to go into the cellar.
I’m a big fan of slow paces and character exploration and The Visitors offers both in spades. The novel is less a horror story and more of a look into Marion’s character, from her sad childhood to life as a spinster, and after John’s heart attack she actually does come into her own a bit. Her family had been wealthy and her mother always had such glamorous clothes. Marion loses weight and fits into her mother’s dresses. She gets her hair done. She even discusses mortgages with a banker – the beautiful seaside house her aunt owner is for sale. All the while there are women chained up in the basement.
When the twist does come at the end, I wasn’t surprised. I’m not sure if it was because it was painfully obvious or if I simply read lots of mysteries and know how the formulas work, but I wasn’t shocked. To be honest, I was a bit let down. I wanted a disturbing read to gear up for fall and had expected to find that in The Visitors. While it was certainly a novel that held my interest the whole way through and kept me turning pages, it wasn’t out of a terrifying, horrifying need to know what was going on. I wanted a disturbing read that would keep me up at night. The Visitors couldn’t deliver on that point. Instead, it was just a fine, decent, intriguing debut – but certainly not one for readers looking for a good Halloween read.