The Visitors

The Visitors

by Catherine Burns


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With the smart suspense of Emma Donoghue’s Room and the atmospheric claustrophobia of Grey Gardens, this “bizarrely unsettling, yet compulsively readable” (Iain Reid, internationally bestselling author of I’m Thinking of Ending Things) thriller explores the twisted realities that can lurk beneath even the most serene of surfaces.

What becomes of a child who grows up without love?

Marion Zetland lives with her domineering older brother John in a crumbling mansion on the edge of a northern seaside resort. A timid spinster who still sleeps with teddy bears, Marion does her best to live by John’s rules, even if it means turning a blind eye to the noises she hears coming from behind the cellar door...and ignoring the women’s laundry in the hamper that isn’t hers. For years, she’s buried the signs of John’s devastating secret deep into the recesses of her mind—until the day John is crippled by a heart attack, and Marion must face what he has kept hidden.

Forced to go down to the cellar, Marion discovers more about herself than she ever thought possible. As the truth slowly unravels, we finally begin to understand: maybe John isn’t the only one with a dark side...

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501164026
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Publication date: 06/05/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 492,977
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Born in Manchester, Catherine Burns is a graduate of Trinity College, University of Cambridge. She worked as a bond trader in London before studying at the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography and teaching film theory at the University of Salford. The Visitors is her debut novel.

Read an Excerpt



Like a white bird, the scream flew up from the depths of the cellar, then became trapped inside Marion's head. As it flapped its wings against the inside of her skull, she wondered how it had got through three floors of the big strong house to her dusty little room in the attic? If the scream managed to reach her, surely it could find a way to someone else: Judith next door or old Mr Weinberg opposite, who liked to walk his little Pomeranian dog along Grange Road in the small hours. Lying on her side made her hip bone ache, so she turned onto her back, but this position strained her knees. The sheets had wriggled to the bottom of the bed, so the woollen blankets scratched her skin, but when she pushed the blankets off, she was freezing cold. She tried to stop herself from wondering what had caused the person to scream and what it might be like down in the cellar in the middle of the night. Don't think about it, she warned herself, or you'll go mad, just like Great Aunt Phyllis. They'll send you to one of those places with bars on the windows, and you'll have to eat your dinner with a plastic spoon.

Then she heard Mother's voice: John is doing what is best for them; you have to trust him — he is your brother and a very clever person, an Oxford graduate, no less. If you can't trust John, your only living family, then who can you trust?

But what if Judith or Mr. Weinberg did hear the scream? What if someone called the police and they came to the house in the night? Would they bang on the door and wait for someone to answer, or just knock it down and come right in? Would they be dragged from their beds? You heard people say that sometimes: "They dragged them from their beds in the middle of the night." But surely the police allowed a person time to get up and get dressed, didn't they?

Perhaps you ought to have something decent ready just in case, suggested Mother. Those baggy black trousers with the jam stain on the knee and that scruffy brown jumper you dropped on the floor before getting into bed would hardly do.

While she and her brother were taken off to the police cells, the home she had lived in all her life would be ripped apart in search of evidence. The thought of strangers running around the house horrified her. What would they think of all the mess? The mould on the bathroom wall, all those broken appliances that John refused to let her throw away, yet never got round to repairing, the tins of food piled in the kitchen, and years and years of newspapers blocking the hall? And that Tupperware container on the top shelf of the fridge, the one full of black slime and greeny-blue fur; she wasn't even sure what it had in it to begin with, and now she was too frightened to open it. If I weren't already dead, I would die from shame that you let things get into such a state, added Mother.

She saw herself on the front page of a newspaper (Marion had never taken a good photo; even in her eighteenth-birthday portrait she looked like a matron of forty), that frizzy brown hair sticking out in all directions like a madwoman's, all the world judging her. What would Judith say? That she had always thought Marion and her brother were odd? And Lydia? The shame of Lydia finding out about all of this would be too much to bear.

"It won't happen, Marion. Nobody heard the scream. Nobody's coming. Who'd be looking for them anyway?" said Neil, holding her in his arms and stroking the hysterical hair.

"But they will, if not tonight, then another night," replied Marion. "And no one will understand that John only wants to help them."

Marion Zetland was eight years old when she first discovered she was plain. If she'd had friends, someone might have pointed this out sooner, but Mother's nerves, delicate as a glass cobweb, couldn't stand the strain of other people's "snotty-nosed scamps" cavorting around the Grange Road house, dirty feet clattering down the oak staircases, squeals bouncing around the large wood-panelled rooms, the possibility of someone breaking or even stealing one of the many "heirlooms", so aside from her brother, John, Marion rarely saw other children outside of school.

Sarah Moss's mother was young and pretty. She dressed in clothes bright as sweetie wrappers and her shiny blonde hair bounced as she bent over to talk to Marion outside the gates of Saint Winifred's Primary School one Friday afternoon. Marion's own mother's hair was set into a mass of interlocking iron and steel curls at Pierre Micheline's once a week and could withstand Northport's sharpest seafront breeze without shifting.

"Would you like to come over to our house tomorrow?" she asked with her smiling voice.

Marion saw Sarah over her mother's shoulder. She was standing by a yellow car, her new grown-up teeth bared at Marion in a way that said, "I'd prefer you to drop dead than come to play."

It was as if Sarah had grabbed her by one arm and the nice lady by the other, and they were trying to split her into two halves.

"They probably know my family owned Northport Grand until the war," Mother said loftily. "They're using her to get in with us."

But Dad insisted that Marion should go. "She spends too much time locked away in her own little world. She needs to get out and about, start making some real friends."

Dad drove her to Sarah's house on Saturday afternoon, smoking a cigarette with one hand and steering the Bentley with the other. The car was hot and leathery like the inside of a shoe, and with each jolting stop and start of the fifteen-minute journey, Marion felt as though she was about to be sick. They pulled up outside a new, boxlike house with huge stone snails crawling across a hump-shaped lawn.

"I'm popping over to the office now. I'll pick you up seven-ish," said Dad, biting on his black moustache. On weekends he often spent long periods of time at his office above the huge warehouse of Zetland's Fine Fabrics.

"But, Dad ... I don't know if they want me to stay that long."

"Well, just ask if they can let you wait until then." He crushed his dying cigarette, alongside the bodies of several others, into a little metal container attached to the car door and clicked it shut.

"It'll be all right, Chuckles, don't you worry," he said, pinching her cheek with ashy fingers.

The Bentley had already driven away before she reached the end of the gravel path. She rang the bell, and a shape appeared behind the bubbly glass door panels. When the door opened, a suntanned man with a brown side-swept fringe and blue jeans was standing there smiling at her. He crouched down so their heads were the same level.

"Hi, I'm Sarah's dad. You must be Marion." He let the golden-brown fringe fall forward, and Marion felt the urge to reach out and feel if it really was as soft as a silk tassel.

Marion's dad never wore jeans; he always dressed in a suit even when they went for walks along the promenade. Sarah's mum and dad seemed so young compared to her own parents. Marion's father had been fifty-two when she was born and her mother forty-three. They were the same age as most of her schoolmates' grandparents, and their lives had the sepia tinge of a bygone era when people rode penny-farthings and had kitchen maids.

Marion followed Sarah's dad into the house, which was remarkable for its lack of antiques, wood-panelling, and curtains with mad swirling patterns. Instead, everything was made from sunlit pine and crayon-box colours. Through the French windows she could see Sarah and her friends standing on the patio. When they saw Marion, they gathered into a group and began to whisper.

Sarah's mum came from the kitchen, wiping hands as small and soft as baby mice against her pale blue jeans. Sarah's mum and dad were like a pair of those fashion dolls you saw in toy shops. The ones that stood side by side in cellophane boxes, dressed in matching outfits with plastic leisure accessories like miniature bikes and BBQ kits.

"Hi, Marion." She beamed as if they were old friends. "The girls are out in the garden playing with Robbie. You go and join them while I get lunch ready."

Marion got a tight cold feeling in her tummy as if she were being sent out to fight in a battle.

"Please don't make me go," she wanted to say. "Let me stay inside. We can watch TV, and I can pretend that you are my real mum and dad."

Sarah's dad let her out through the French windows, and she found herself standing on some paving stones, all different jagged shapes and sizes that had been cleverly fitted together like a puzzle. Sarah and her friends were taking turns stroking the gray fur of a large cuddly toy. The creature's nose twitched as if in annoyance at Marion daring to step out onto its fantastical stone garden.

"How does it move? Is it a magic toy?" asked Marion.

"He is a chinchilla called Robbie, and he can move because he's alive," said Sarah in a tone that implied only an idiot wouldn't know that. "Don't let her touch him," she ordered the other girls. "She'll probably do it wrong and squish him to death."

Lucy Clements, by far the biggest of the girls, readied her walnutty knuckles to punch, then placed herself between the chinchilla and Marion. The others petted Robbie with exaggerated daintiness, sweeping their fingertips downward and allowing them to alight on his fur for just an instant.

Marion went and stood alone at the far end of the garden. "White trousers, twill — brushed cotton red trousers with flower on the pocket — rayon pink skirt — black pants, serge — no — canvas — pants — black — no, white pants — towelling — towel — towel," she said to herself, identifying the fabrics of items on Mrs. Moss's rotating washing line. She knew how from having spent so much time at Dad's warehouse looking through sample books.

When Mrs. Moss called them in for lunch, they ate things that Marion had never seen before: peanut butter and a drink called Lilt that had pictures of palm trees on the can and tasted like sugary sunshine. Sarah and her friends began being overly nice to her, but in a pretend way.

"Judy, would you most kindly pass the peanut butter sandwiches to Marion?" said Sarah with a sharp-edged smile stretching her pretty face. "She looks like she is almost dead from hunger."

"Would you like another Jammie Dodger, Marion? You have only had six or seven already," asked Lucy. The other girls giggled until a frown from Sarah's mum shut them up.

After tea, Marion and the other girls went upstairs to play. Sarah declared that they would pretend to be brides by putting a lace curtain over their heads and parading up and down the space between the frilly pink twin beds that served as a church aisle, holding a vase of plastic lilies of the valley borrowed from the downstairs loo.

"Who's next?" Sarah said, when everyone but Marion had a turn.

"Marion hasn't had a go," said Hazel Parkinson, who had so many freckles on her small nose that they melted into one big browny splodge.

"But she can't be a bride. She isn't pretty enough. Who would marry that fat potato face?" said Judy Blake. Hearing these words made Marion's insides burn like the time she ate the bad berries from the garden because they looked like candy.

"No, she must, everyone has to do it," said Sarah ominously.

Reluctantly, Marion put the curtain over her head and took the flowers that had the harsh, headachy smell of cheap air freshener. As she walked, Sarah began to sing:

Here comes the bride Forty inches wide They had to knock the church door down To get her bum inside.

The mattresses of the twin beds shook as the girls that were sitting on them began to giggle.

When she went home, she found Mother cleaning the Edwardian silver teapot. Beautifully decorated with exotic animals and birds and standing on four tiger paws, the pot was too valuable to be trusted to the meaty hands of Mrs. Morrison, the housekeeper. Mother listened to Marion's tale while carefully rubbing a soft grey cloth over the gleaming curve of the handle.

Marion wanted to be told that Sarah and her friends were wrong, that they were just saying these things to hurt her feelings, but instead Mother looked at Marion with an expression of vague disappointment, as if she were something that had lost its shape in the wash.

"It's not your fault, Marion; you take after your dad's mother. She was a very plain woman, but she was going to inherit the fabric business. That's the only reason Grandfather Zetland married her."

"Maybe I'll be pretty when I grow up, like the ugly duckling," Marion said optimistically.

Her mother said nothing but put down the teapot, lit a menthol cigarette, and exhaled. As the realization she might never be loved enveloped Marion with the cloud of bitter smoke, she wrapped her arms around Mother's angular hips for comfort. Physical affection wasn't encouraged, however, in the Zetland family, and she soon felt herself peeled off with extreme delicacy.

As Mother returned her attention to the teapot, Marion ran upstairs to her attic bedroom. She arranged all her soft toys in a circle on the floor, then got into the middle and curled up into a ball with her head tucked between her knees. She often did this when she was upset. It made her feel as though the toys were protecting her with their magical power. While she was still curled up with her eyes closed, someone came into the room. Marion did not look up, but she knew it must be her older brother, John, because she could smell strawberry shoelaces, and those were his favourite sweets.

"What's up, Mar?"

"I'm not pretty. I'm never going to get married because I'm far too wide." The sob that came deep from Marion's chest sounded like a saw being dragged across wood. "I expect I will die alone."

She heard John snap a shoelace between his teeth.

"Who told you that?"

"Sarah Moss and her friends. And they wouldn't let me touch Robbie in case I squished him."


"He's a chinchilla — that's a cuddly toy brought to life by magic."

"Where does she live?"

Marion sniffed. "It's called Copperdale Estate. Near to that place Dad takes us, you know, Frank's Yard. They have giant snails in the front garden. Pretend ones, though."

When she lifted her head, John was gone, but a slick red strawberry sweet lay next to her inside the protective circle. Marion picked up the strawberry stick and put it in her mouth. As soon as the pink-flavoured sugar fizzed on her tongue, she began to feel a little better.

A few weeks later Mrs Moss was about to drive Sarah and her little brother to school when they found the skin of Robbie the chinchilla spread across the windscreen of the car. No one knew how the skin had got there or what had happened to the inside bits of Robbie. Marion did not go back to Sarah's house again. If ever she was invited to things, she pretended to be poorly. Instead, she preferred to stay in what Dad called her "own little world" with the door firmly locked against intruders.


July 6th

Hi today this is Sonya. This is a normal day for me I clean/fed everybody all morning. Sometimes I play with the white rats and they don't eat my fingers now because they know I am friends. Many children come to the store to look at the puppis. The Mrs Boris tells me I am ask them what they want and if they do not buy I must stare at them with angry eyes until they leave. But I am not as good as Mrs Boris at making angry eyes and the children do not leave. They poke their fingers through cage and scream making the puppis bark, then the parrot make Kaakaaakaa sound and the cats hisssss and my head gets so big with noise I think it might pop.

At night I watched TV show about horses. One day I like I will work with horses. Big animals better they can run free not like the little things in cages. Sorry for not so good English I will try harder please be patience with me!

August 8th

This day is hot very and daddy gecko died. I cry because I am sad it died but also because I am sad about many other things. Boris says it is my fault because not enough water for daddy gecko. Boris says daddy gecko cost a lot of money. The Mrs Boris says the money must come from me.

August 9th

Again very hot and my hand hurts because I was bitten by the bad puppi. Even with bitten hand I have to clean and feed and clean more. Boris says it is my own fault. Everything is Sonya fault. Puppi is growing very big. Someone must buy him soon because if he gets too big he is not cute enough to be loved. We must not tell anyone he bites. Even the fishes look scared when the bad puppi barks.


Excerpted from "The Visitors"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Catherine Burns.
Excerpted by permission of Legend Press Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

This readers group guide for The Visitors includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Marion Zetland, a timid, middle-aged spinster, lives with her authoritarian older brother in the decaying mansion of their childhood on the edge of a northern seaside resort. Marion tries to live by her brother’s rules: doing the shopping and the laundry, preparing their quotidian meals, and staying out of his business. With only her teddy bears and imaginary friends for comfort, Marion does her best to shut out the shocking secret that John keeps in the cellar.

But when John becomes suddenly ill, Marion must open the door to the other side and come face-to-face with the gruesome truth—and her own darkness.

Topics and Questions for Discussion

1. Consider Marion’s warning to herself about the noises from the cellar on the novel’s opening page: “Don’t think about it, she warned herself, or you’ll go mad, just like Great-aunt Phyllis” (p. 1). Is this a self-fulfilling prophecy? Does Marion go mad?

2. How does Marion’s childhood, particularly her parents’ old-fashioned and aloof parenting styles, affect her later in life? How do Marion and John take after their parents?

3. Is John a good brother to Marion? How would you characterize their relationship? Are there any redemptive qualities in John’s actions toward Marion?

4. What was your first impression of Marion? What was your first impression of John? How are they similar and different from each other?

5. Is Marion as unlovable and unintelligent as her mother, John, and the other school children seem to think? How do you know?

6. Is Marion a reliable narrator? Why or why not?

7. What role do Marion’s daydreams and her imaginary relationships play in her life? Consider this passage: “In the same way a starving man might swallow rags to stuff his belly, Marion found it was possible to fill the emptiness inside her with daydreams” (p. 158).

8. Misfortunes seem to befall those who cross Marion—Juliet, for example, found “lying unconscious in the frozen mud of Albert Park” (p. 39). How did your understanding of these events and Marion’s role in them change throughout the novel? Do you think Marion is aware of her own role in these events? Why or why not?

9. Discuss the significance of the title—is there another, more apt word for the so-called “visitors”? Before you read the book, what did “visitors” in the title invoke for you?

10. Marion’s true nature starts to come out through her interactions with the lady in the grocery story and Brendan O’Brian, the psychic medium. Were you surprised by what is revealed about her?

11. How does the reclusive and antisocial Marion manage to maintain a relationship with Lydia, and tangentially Judith, over twenty years? Why is Marion’s relationship with Lydia so important and unique to Marion?

12. What prevents Marion from helping Violetta and the other visitors? Is Marion a heroine, villain, or accomplice?

13. Whose transgressions are worse: John’s or Marion’s? Why?

14. Does Marion get what she deserves in the end? Why or why not? How is she transformed from the beginning of the novel?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. The dilapidated mansion of Grange Road and eccentric cast of characters would make a fascinating film adaptation, in the vein of the infamous Grey Gardens documentary. Who would you cast as John, Marion, Judith, and the other characters in the film version of The Visitors?

2. The novel is told through the eyes of Marion Zetland. How would it be different if the story was told from John’s, Judith’s, or Sonya’s perspective? Reimagine the novel’s telling with your book club; discuss how key events would change when told from the other character’s points-of-view.

3. The Visitors is Catherine Burns’s first novel. Learn more about the author by following her on Facebook ( and Twitter (

Customer Reviews

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The Visitors 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a really creepy story that will stay with you a long time after you have read it, questioning the morality of the characters and why they did what they did. The dark things that happen are suggested rather than explicit and perhaps that's why it has such an unsettling effect on the reader.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A weird yet gripping tale of two middle aged siblings who live together in a crumbling English mansion. There is something weird going on down in the cellar and the desire to know exactly what it was kept me hooked! Not for the fainthearted though, some gruesome scenes towards the end but overall a great read.
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
I totally agree with the blurb for this book that says "bizarrely unsettling". It was definitely that. The main character and voice of this book is Marion Zetland around 60 years of age. She lives in a house that has been in her family for generations. She lives in this huge house with her brother, John. They of the appearance of Grey Gardens in the movie with the same name. That's what this house looks like. Trash everywhere. Piles of just stuff, throughout the house. This was a very strange read with VERY strange characters. I really enjoyed reading this which is bizarrely unsettling. However, Marion was a character that blew my mind and I had to just keep reading. Thanks to Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Visitors is a chilling, gripping read. This book is action-packed. The entire time I read it I was on the edge of my seat. The Visitors is is a story of a brother (John) and his sister (Marion) and the disturbing lives they live. This book is very eerie and will make your skin crawl. It makes you think twice about people around you. Catherine Burns has created the scenes in this book written so vividly that it makes you feel like you are in their house filled clutter and filth. Catherine Burns makes you feel, see and smell horrible scary thing. She makes you frightened on who you should trust.
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
I felt so bad for Marion as she suffered under the laws of her brother, John. Their parents had both died and these adult siblings continued to live in their childhood home. John knew he ruled the roost and he would manipulate Marion to do exactly what he wanted done. The way Marion fussed over John, you would have thought he was her partner and when she called him “love”, it disgusted me. Marion seemed childlike in her actions and words about the world and about others whereas to see John’s world through his eyes, the world was menacing. John would twist his words/conversation around or he would be belligerent to Marion, just to get his way. Poor Marion. Marion would do anything for John yet John walked all over her. When John lures a woman to their home, Marion wants no part of it yet, John needs her help. Again, John’s twisted mind convinces Marion that everything will be okay and Marion resigns. Arriving from overseas, this woman thought that John would provide her with opportunities but John has other plans for her. And now, this story plunges further into darkness. John doesn’t just stop at one woman, he decides to add a few more to add to his collection and he’ll need Marion’s help to get that accomplished. It begins to get creepy and gloomy, as Marion goes about her day, oblivious to the additions to their home, that are held somewhere in their house. When I think about John caring for these women, it sickened me. When I thought about Marion and how she could ignore the fact these women were in her house and she didn’t say anything or ask about them, I started to get irritated at her. Where is this madness headed and will it ever end? I listened to this novel on a Playaway, which was read by Kate Reading and I thought she did a wonderful job. This is not a fast-paced novel but that was okay as I thought the slow parts were needed as it added to the dramatic effects of the novel and it allowed for more character development which was warranted in this novel. I really enjoyed listening to this novel.
PattySmith87 More than 1 year ago
Thank you to Netgalley and Simon and Schuster for receiving an ARC in exchange for an honest review. The Visitor, by Catherine Burns, is the best kind of horror book. This is the kind that doesn’t shed one drop of blood, no gory heads being chopped off or eyeballs gooping out of their sockets. No, this is the kind that manages to scare your pants off, give you the creeps down into the depths of your soul, and is so disturbing that it makes your toes curl. It is one of those stories that will stay with you long after you read it and if you want to sleep, maybe don’t finish it before bed. Meet Marion, the timid, bullied, overweight woman who is a real pushover. With a mother who constantly criticized her and a brother who bullied and shamed her, Marion never had a chance at a normal life. She is completely isolated, never having had any friends growing up, and at 50 seems almost stunted in maturity, still sleeping with stuffed animals. She lives with her brother John in their parental home which has fallen into disarray. She is dependent on John and waits on him hand and foot, subject to his whims, mood swings and verbal abuse. But she knows he is older and wiser and he wouldn’t get that way if only she was smarter and could do more for him. John has friends, lady friends. He sometimes makes her get in the car and go for a ride to meet them. He brings them to the house and then she never sees them again. But there are strange noises that come from the basement. Sometimes there is such a foul smell she wonders why everyone doesn’t notice it. But Marion doesn’t like to think of unpleasant things. It upsets her and she would rather just watch her TV shows or sleep it off. It’s best to let John handle everything. Until one day he can’t. He has a heart attack and it is up to Marion to deal with what is in the basement. I loved every bit of this book. Catherine Burns is an excellent writer. The characters are so well drawn and the tension and excitement build from seeing how Marion goes from almost childlike into, well, read for yourself and decide. John is so evil and repulsive from his physical characteristics to his actions. It is a true thriller but what happens is horrifying. It reminds me of the Twilight Zone except that there are no fantasy or magical elements in this novel. It really could be describing those weird neighbours down the street, or when you hear a news story of a serial killer that everyone is so shocked about because people will say that they seemed so normal and never bothered anyone. I mean, come on, the definition of a good neighbour or what! I give this a 4.5 stars. A great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not to my taste It seems incomplete That in its way is okay but not for me Although in real life God has the last word
MorrisMorgan More than 1 year ago
Had I written this review as soon as I finished “The Visitors,” it would have been three stars. I’m glad I waited, because this is the sort of book that sticks with you and chills you to the bone whenever you think about it. It isn’t fast-paced, and honestly some of the scariest moments come when you identify with the loneliness of Marion. Quite a bit of it is simply a slice of life type story with bits of the macabre tossed in. I really don’t want to spoil anything. If you are up for a slow-burn horror/ thriller, this is highly recommended. Caution: There are some animal deaths, though none particularly graphic. This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.
TiBookChatter More than 1 year ago
Once you figure out who the “visitors” are, you quickly realize how horrible the situation is. Marion lives with her older brother John. She’s a spinster and the two live a somewhat quiet life. Mostly because John is not the most social of people. Together, they live in a run-down mansion and although Marion sometimes dreams of life outside its walls, she is too self-conscious of herself to make any friends of her own and why bother anyway? No one would care to know her the way she looks. She’s plain, old and completely uninteresting. But the real reason she stays close to home is because her brother John is different. Disturbed, I should say. He doesn’t approve of her having any friends and he is unable to make any of his own given his harshness and lack of manners. Things change when The Visitors come. Without giving the secret away, the entire book focuses on The Visitors and how they’ve come to inhabit Marion and John’s house. There are dark things going on within the house and it takes Marion a really long time to figure them out. This was rather infuriating to me as a reader but it was interesting too because Marion’s reaction to it all is not what you’d expect. Catherine Burns does a decent job of “keeping the secret” and I found myself pretty absorbed by Marion and John’s situation but ultimately the ending was a little rushed. It’s being compared to Room and I can see that comparison but the tension is not as high in this one.
Myndia More than 1 year ago
An aged brother and sister live in their large, but squalid, family home. Neither of them have ever married or had children, their parents have passed, and they have no one but each other. Both of them are strange, having experienced a very cold and isolated childhood. But really, strange doesn’t even begin to cover it. John spends most of his time in the basement and Marion ignores the terrible things he does down there. Until the day John has a heart attack and she is forced to deal with it. This book had so much promise. The concept sounded intriguing. I was expecting a bit of a gothic horror maybe, something intense and shocking at least. But no. It was slow paced and often a bit boring. I knew from the onset what was going on in the basement, and Marion’s solution to the issue was no surprise either. Oddly, I actually did find myself hoping she’d manage her “escape” in the end despite feeling strongly she didn’t really deserve it and not liking her in the least. The ending didn’t go off as I would have liked either. Ultimately, I was disappointed (partially because I had been rather psyched to read this). No gothic, no horror, no shocking reveals, no tension, and no real mystery. I didn’t hate it, but I can hardly recommend it. Note: I received this book from the publisher. I pride myself on writing fair and honest reviews.
SheTreadsSoftly More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A page turner that truly has a reade? "hook".
Momma_Becky More than 1 year ago
This book was not at all what I expected. Just from the blurb, I pretty well figured out who the visitors were, but this book really isn't about them. The visitors are minor characters at best, and more a nuisance to Marion than anything else. As far as her dark side, that's evident from early in the story, which does nothing to build up any kind of mystery or suspense. The only mystery here is whether these horrible people will face any form of justice. As far as characters go, I didn't find a single likable character in this book. Even the "visitors" don't elicit much empathy as we get so little about them. The story is dark and psychological, but it is extremely convoluted and more of a character study of Marion than anything else. We get numerous flashbacks of Marion's life, but they are in no particular order and some are tedious with the details. Then, we get emails at random that are easy enough to figure out, but again, they are rather random. The worst parts for me were the details of Marion's current every day life, including an almost complete play by play of television programs that she watched. I finally made it to the end and I have to say that after all of that, even the ending was thoroughly unsatisfying.