book blog · book review

The Visitors by Catherine Burns


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.


*Synopsis and photo from Goodreads


*I would like to thank the publisher,ย Legend Press, and NetGalley for the copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.

On her fifties already, but Marion Zetland has been living with her older domineering brother, John, all her life. They are living in their parents’ crumbling estate that was left to them when they died. Marion rarely goes out and it’s not a surprise that she’s never been married, same as John. She’s timid, naive, gullible and a fantasist. Both are not working and they are living off with the inheritance and since the family is rich and the business is still running, money has never been their problem. Marion depends heavily on John and that’s why she effectively turn a blind eye and shut down whatever secret her brother is hiding on the cellar. A place at the house she’s forbidden to go but John need not worry, she doesn’t have a plan of setting foot down there. Whatever it is he’s doing, she doesn’t want to know. But suddenly, John had a heart attack and he made her promised to take care of whatever it is he’s hiding down their cellar. Marion finds herself facing her brother’s terrible secret and in turn, confronting hers as well. Because it looks like Marion is not so innocent after all.

The Visitors is one disturbing novel. It is dark and will definitely leave you unsettled. Still, it is an engaging piece and I was so engrossed that I breezed through the pages despite it being a slow burn. The storyline is absorbing and the characters are definitely interesting and well-developed. If you’re looking for an action-packed thriller, this is not that as it’s more of a character-driven plot kind of novel. The suspense in the story is perfectly paced. The readers were in on the secret early on and we immediately know what to expect as the blurb pretty much spoil it for us. But regardless of knowing what will happen, the author still managed to build anticipation on what’s to come. There’s no big reveal or mind-boggling twist either. Nevertheless, I love this book just the same. It is a change from the usual mystery thriller and police procedures I’ve been reading.

Told in present time with flashbacks of the past, I find Marion and her story fascinating but at the same time, pathetic and slightly depressing. She and her brother were raised in an unconventional manner, where showing love towards each other is not encouraged. She was led to believe by her own mother at that, that she’s stupid, a disappointment, and that no one will ever love her. And as I was reading through her perspective, getting to know more about her, I believed the same thing. The sympathy is also there but only for a while. Through her, we also get to know her brother, John and how creepy he is, how his secret started and what Marion’s got to do with all of it it. Marion sure is the type of character that will stay with you for a long time.

Overall, a brilliantly written debut about a dysfunctional, twisted family. Dark and disconcerting. Unexpected ending but satisfying read just the same.




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