Title: The Visitors
Author: Catherine Burns
Genre: Fiction, Thriller
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
For three days I have been trying to figure out what to say in this review. This is an odd and fairly disturbing book. I think my biggest problem with it is I can't figure out what the point is in it. Especially given that the blurb gives away that the brother gets ill and yet that doesn't happen until almost the very end of the novel.
Perhaps as a short story this might work. It could still hold the creep factor without being so drawn out.
This is not a pleasant book. Be warned. It's clear from the beginning that the 'visitors' are being held captive. That the brother is the one doing it and his unintelligent sister is (mostly) a passive bystander. Both siblings are rich by inheritance so there is none of the usual issue with getting a job or being concerned about funds. This may help to distance the average person even further from the sister (whom the story perspective is written from); but for me this doesn't make any of the things she does more acceptable or less horrific.
I think Catherine Burns intends to make us feel badly for our lead gal (the sister) at points. She's a 50+ virgin with no friends or true relationships (except for her brother). She has a low IQ and some large mental health issues. But being less intelligent doesn't (generally) mean you are less morale. It just means you are not as clever. And this is where I don't like the way she is portrayed; as though her lesser IQ is an excuse for many things she does or doesn't do. I don't believe that IQ indicates a person's morality or capability to feel emotions. The traits of a sociopath are available to any intelligence level and, perhaps ironically, often to those more intelligent than the average.
Nothing to see here
I honestly feel like I want to use the force to wave my hand and say there's "nothing to see here" because there really isn't. If you want to read horrific literature just because you like crazy creepy and terrifying things happening to others then sure maybe The Visitors is for you. But go in knowing it's not a horror novel; it's a literary novel that has horrifying things happen in it. And maybe that's what's most odd of all; the writing is good and the characters themselves are well developed, it's just there is no substance of plot here except to maybe say that the sister is naive or chooses to be blind to her circumstances. I'd love to hear what Burns has to say about why she wrote this book.
But does it turn out okay?
Some who have read this novel may say "oh but there's a sort-of happy ending". I disagree there is absolutely nothing happy about this ending. In fact the ending may be more unsettling than the obvious horrifying things due to its skewed perspective.
Unless you are obsessed with serial killers or kidnappers then I just can't see a reason to pick The Visitors up.
I generally like creepy, smart thrillers (although not my primary genre choice); but neither smart nor creepy are really present here. Instead it's just flat out horrifying because it could be real (has been all too real to some real-life women) and seems to provide no context that allows the reader to 'get something' out of the book (other than perhaps a sick to your stomach feeling).
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.