The Visitors by Catherine Burns

Review published on April 6, 2018.

There’s something down in brother and sister John and Marion Zetland’s cellar and we get to find out really early on what it is in this gripping, compulsive debut.

I’m not spoiling things by saying it’s Eastern European girls tricked into the country by John and kept as prisoners and sex slaves. This novel focuses, however, on Marion, now in her late fifties, dominated by her brother and almost in complete denial as to what is going on in their house. Marion has done little with her life and looks back on a past filled with regrets whilst not functioning in the horrific reality of the present. This makes for incredibly tense reading. It is a tale of loneliness (charity shop toys fill the role of friends) and neglect in an environment where evil lurks down the cellar steps.

If this sounds a little too sordid the author has a masterful hand with characterisation and her depiction of Marion will remain long in my mind. There’s dark humour amongst the dark themes, which I appreciated and which kept me reading to the point where I found it very difficult to put the book down. This is a very accomplished debut, a combination of crime and horror feel with a strong literary fiction feel which should make it appeal to more than those who make their reading choices from the darker areas of genre fiction.

Phil Ramage 4/4

The Visitors by Catherine Burns
Legend Press 9781787199859 hbk Oct 2017

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