Although there is nothing showy or even stylish about his prose, Mr. Marshall (whose other credits include The Straw Men) tells a nerve-racking story full of bizarre twists. That it initially offers so little only adds to its later surprise value. The Intruders, which seems like such a ploddingly literal-minded title for a book that begins with a home invasion, turns out to signal a sci-fi horrific strain, one that guarantees puzzling questions about the characters' true identities and motives…Mr. Marshall recalls Stephen King's ability to set a story in the world of the commonplace, then suddenly jolt it into a more hellish realm. He also has some of Mr. King's ability to rivet attention with eerie surprises. It's not necessary to believe this book's spooky underlying premise to be caught up in the campfire-tale power of its action.
The New York Times
Bestseller Marshall (The Straw Men) outdoes his own high standards with this potent blend of suspense, paranoia and just plain creepiness. Jack Whalen, a former L.A. cop, is pursuing a new career as a writer in an idyllic small town just east of Seattle when weird things start to undermine his pursuit of the American dream. First, an old acquaintance from Jack's childhood suddenly turns up with a strange tale about a double homicide; then Jack's wife, an advertising executive, disappears briefly on a business trip. Is he going crazy, or is she leading some sort of secret life? And what about these disturbing spells he keeps having, these fleeting sensations of otherness, in which his own existence is unfamiliar to him? Meanwhile, down the coast in Portland, a nine-year-old girl having similar visions has gone missing. As Jack investigates, he stumbles onto a secret much darker than he ever could have anticipated. Marshall ingeniously threads these strands together into a provocative and supremely intelligent thriller that reads like a cross between Andrew Klavan and Philip K. Dick. (Aug.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Making his hardcover U.S. debut, British thriller writer Marshall (The Straw Men) introduces readers to Jack Whalen, a former LAPD officer who wrote a book about crime scenes in Los Angeles. He and wife, Amy, now live in Washington State, where he's attempting to write another book while she pursues a successful career as an ad agency executive. Jack's feeling that something is not right in his marriage is confirmed when he tries to contact Amy at her hotel during a business trip and there is no sign that his wife has ever checked in. The same day, he gets a visit from an old high school friend who asks him to investigate a home invasion and murder in Seattle. As Jack struggles to discover the truth about his wife, he is drawn into something far larger and more mysterious than he could ever have imagined. Readers will find it very hard to put down this well-written and somewhat spooky novel. Strongly recommended for all fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ4/15/07; Marshall also writes sf and horror under the name Michael Marshall Smith; out this month is The Servantsfrom Earthling Publications.-Ed.]
Potent, character-driven thriller about personality manipulation and brainwashing. Marshall (The Straw Men, 2002) ignites his exciting narrative in a clever, back-handed fashion with a gruesome double murder followed by an initially baffling flashback to the suicide of a girl named Donna. It all comes together when successful Chicago lawyer Gary Fisher calls up Jack Whalen, a former high-school acquaintance who offered some words of comfort after Donna killed herself over Gary. Why does Fisher want to see him? Because Whalen used to be with the LAPD and is now a writer living in Seattle, where that double murder took place. Its victims were the wife and son of Bill Anderson, an inventor linked to an estate Fisher's law firm is handling. Fisher convinces Whalen to investigate the case further. After all, the writer's not getting much work done while worrying about the strange behavior of his wife Amy. An advertising exec who travels frequently, she's been failing to turn up in places she's supposed to be or disappearing altogether for no discernible reason. She's also been frequenting a bogus storefront office in downtown Seattle in the company of other oddly acting characters. Meanwhile, a missing nine-year-old girl whose memory has been erased turns up at various places in Seattle, including Amy's advertising offices, displaying a new and strangely mature personality. All of these changeling personages have contact at some point with a dangerous creep who calls himself Federal Agent Shepherd. Marshall uses Fisher's and Whalen's personal histories to give some chilling psychological depth to his spooky portrait of disgruntled obsessives forming secret societies to search for "hiddentruths."Subtle, satisfying-and really scary.
Read an Excerpt
There was this girl I knew back in high school. Her name was Donna, and even that was wrong about her, as if she'd been mislabeled at birth. She wasn't a Donna. Not in real terms. She made you realize there must be an underlying rhythm to the universe, and you knew this purely because she wasn't hitting it. She walked a little too quickly. She turned her head a little too slowly. It was like she was dubbed onto reality a beat out of true. She was one of those kids you saw at a distance, toting a pile of books, standing diffidently with people you didn't realize were even at the school. She had friends, she did okay in class, she wasn't a total loser, and she wasn't dumb. She was just kind of hard to see.
Like all schools we had a pecking order of looks, but Donna somehow wasn't on the same scale. Her skin was pale and her features fine-boned and evenly spaced, faultless except for a crescent scar to the side of her right eye, legacy of some toddling collision with a table. The eyes themselves were inky gray and very clear, and on the rare occasions when you got to look into them, you received a vivid sense she was real after all—which only made you wonder what you thought she was the rest of the time. She was a little skinny, maybe, but otherwise slightly cute in every way except that she somehow just . . . wasn't. It was as if she released no pheromones, or they operated on an inaudible wavelength, broadcasting their signal to sexual radios either out of date or not yet invented.
I found her attractive nonetheless, though I was never really sure why. So I noticed when it looked like she was hanging outwith—or in the vicinity of—a guy named Gary Fisher. Fisher was one of the kids who strode the halls as if accompanied by fanfare, the group that makes anyone who's been through the American school system instantly wary of egalitarian philosophies later in life. He played football with conspicuous success. He was on the starting basketball lineup, played significant tennis, too. He was good-looking, naturally: When God confers control of sports spheres, he tends to wrap it in a prettier package, too. Fisher wasn't like the actors you see in teen movies now, impossibly handsome and free of facial blemish, but he looked right, back in the days when the rest of us stared dismally in the mirror every morning and wondered what had gone wrong and whether it would get better—or even worse.
He was also, oddly, not too much of an asshole. I knew him a little from track, where I had a minor talent for hurling things a long way. I'd gathered from the jock grapevine that a realignment had taken place among the ruling classes, principally that Gary's girl, Nicole, was now going with one of his friends instead, in what appeared to be an amicable transfer of chattels. You didn't have to be too keen an observer of the social scene to perceive a degree of interest in taking her place—but the truly weird thing was that Donna seemed to believe herself in the running. It was as if she had received intelligence from somewhere that the caste system was illusory and you actually could fit a square peg in a round hole. She couldn't sit at the same table at lunch, of course, but would wind up at one nearby, close to Gary's line of sight. She would engineer "accidental" bumps in the corridor but manage nothing more than nervous laughs. I even saw her a couple of Fridays out at Radical Bob's, a burger/pizza place where people tended to start the weekend. She would stop by whatever table Fisher was sitting at and deliver some remark about a class or assignment, which would fall to the floor like a brick. Then she would wander off, a little too slowly now, as if hoping to be called back. This never happened. Other than being mildly perplexed, I doubt Fisher had the slightest clue what was going on. After a couple weeks, a deal was done in some gilded back room—or the backseat of a gilded car, more likely—and one morning Gary was to be found in the company of Courtney Willis, textbook hot blonde. Life went on.
For most of us.
Two days later Donna was found in the bathtub at her parents' home. Her wrists had been cut with determination and only one testing slash on the forearm. The adult consensus, which I overheard more than once, was that it could not have been a fast way to go—despite a last-ditch attempt to hasten progress by pushing a pair of nail scissors deep into her right eye socket, as if that crescent scar had been some kind of omen. There was a handwritten letter to Gary Fisher on the floor, the words blurred by water that had spilled over the edges of the tub. Lots of people later claimed to have seen the letter, or a photocopy, or overheard someone saying what was in it. But, as far as I know, none of this was true.
News spread fast. People went through the motions, and there were outbreaks of crying and prayer, but I don't think any of us were shaken to our core. Personally, I was not surprised or even particularly sorry. That sounds callous, but the truth was, it felt like it made sense. Donna was a weird chick. A strange girl, a dumb death. End of story.
Or so it seemed to most of us. Gary Fisher's reaction was different, and at the time it was the most surprising thing I had ever seen. Everything was new and strange back then, events backlit by the foreshortened perspective of a fledgling life. The guy who did something halfway . . . The Intruders. Copyright © by Michael Marshall. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.