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The Visitors

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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.

288 pages, Hardcover

First published September 26, 2017

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Catherine Burns

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,023 reviews
Profile Image for j e w e l s.
309 reviews2,366 followers
October 7, 2017
Let me just say this straight up: I LOVED this book. HOWEVER.........."big but coming in now"

A bunch of readers are not going to feel the same. If you're looking for a heart-thumping thriller, you might want to skip this book for now. My mood as I started reading: I was burned out on baby abductions and murderous marital secrets. THE VISITORS was like a literary breath of fresh air for me! The book is interesting, unique, and, yes, spine-tingling despite the lack of car chases or police interrogations.

This novel is going to attract people because it is described as the wonderful Emma Donoghue's ROOM meets GREY GARDENS. To be compared to ROOM is a mighty long stretch and even after having read it can I barely see what the publisher meant by that reference. THE VISITORS is more like if Norman Bates were living with a spinster sister in GREY GARDENS. There is a Gothic feel, but the book is set in modern day, complete with cell phones and internet service.

This is a flat out, in-depth character study of an elderly brother and sister, Marion and John. Sounds so sweet and innocent, right? No. Nothing about Marion and John is ordinary or sweet or traditional. They live together in a crumbling mansion that is overrun with rotting garbage, old stuffed animals and horrific secrets.

Once I started reading, I was utterly transfixed by the character of Marion. The story is told from her P.O.V and the author, Catherine Burns, does a phenomenal job of bringing Marion and John to life. Marion is a character that will stay with me for a long time, and I don't say that often. She grew up with a strict mother that still brow beats her (even though mom is dead now) and John, the brother, is a raging ogre. He vacillates between syrupy concern for Marion and lashing out at her in anger over trivialities.

Marion is pathetic, tragic, child-like. She has been told her whole life that she is stupid, clumsy and unworthy of love. She believes it. And so do I, as a reader. I found her to be a sympathetic character after all the abuse she has endured.

When John starts bringing in "the visitors" to live in the creepy basement, Marion turns a blind eye. Denial is her single coping mechanism. And she does it well. Deny it, Marion, and it won't be true. As Marion continues to daydream her life away, John, is free to carry on who knows what in the basement. 

After John suffers a heart attack, we begin to see what Marion is really made of. WILL THE REAL MARION PLEASE EMERGE? The answer, my friends, is the pinnacle to this exceptional character driven novel. 

Many thanks to NetGalley, the publisher Gallery Scout Press, and the author, Catherine Burns. The Visitors is scheduled for U.S. release on September 26. PS: I adore the crumbling wallpaper book cover!
Profile Image for Kaceey.
1,066 reviews3,607 followers
October 14, 2017
I always thought I loved books that had a huge "creep" factor. Well, either my taste is changing or now these authors are taking creep to a whole new level (I think the latter is the case!). This was just beyond my comfort zone.

Marion and John are middle-aged siblings still living together in the home where they grew up. Their parents gone. Their neighbors highly suspicious. Of what? Could there possibly be something “creepy” going on in there?

It took me a couple days to write this review. Needed the time to ponder this one and process exactly how I felt. Well...I think I’m still somewhat conflicted. I went into this book rather blindly. (Maybe too much so). I do know that when I first saw this book was available I was so excited to read it! I was looking for creative ways to get my hands on this novel! When it became a download now on NetGalley I quickly clicked on it while doing the happy dance!

Unfortunately it didn’t completely live up to my expectations. I kept waiting for the storyline to take me somewhere...nope, never got there. I kept waiting for a wicked twist that just didn’t develop. On the positive, it definitely was a very fast read. Still, I was left with a feeling that the book just missed its mark.

This was a huge Traveling Sister group read with Norma, Brenda, Jan, Kendall, Holly, Sarah, Jennifer, and Diane!!

Thank you to NetGalley, Legends Press and Catherine Burns for a copy to read in exchange for an honest review.

For this review and our full traveling sister review please visit Brenda and Norma's Fantastic Traveling Sister Book Blog http://www.twogirlslostinacouleereadi...
Profile Image for Miriam Smith (A Mother’s Musings).
1,521 reviews156 followers
June 21, 2018
"The Visitors" written by Catherine Burns was a really twisted, creepy and skin crawling book, that I loved reading from start to finish. Having been sent this book by a fellow reader, who highly recommended it, I was already expecting a good yarn but I was pleasantly surprised at just how much it captured my attention.
Anyone expecting a hauntingly scary or fast paced thriller will be disappointed as the story is much more character focused but it is that which makes the story so much more creepy as the slow build just keeps the dreaded anticipation ongoing. Not knowing exactly (though we have an idea) what is happening in the cellar and who may be there just adds to the sick, twisted and sinister feeling that jumps from every page.
John who is a domineering brute of a bully and his rather pathetic sister Marion, are people I'm sure you'd give a wide berth to in real life and can only imagine the suspicions any neighbours would have, living next door to screams coming out of the cellar all hours of the day. I really enjoyed reading the flashback chapters to John and Marion's youth and they helped to fully explain their adult behaviour and mannerisms now. Marion clearly lives in a fantasy dream world and I did have some sympathy for her but only a little bit and not for long!!
Catherine Burns has created a really twisted story in "The Visitors" that I thoroughly enjoyed and it will stay with me a long time (choosing rather inept moments to pop into my thoughts) - it's dark, quite disturbing and really rather evil and I'd happily recommend to readers who fancy a change to the fast paced and aggressive thrillers that are flooding the market at the minute. Loved it!
Many thanks to Elaine Tomasso for sending me her copy of the book.

5 stars
Profile Image for Dr. Appu Sasidharan (Dasfill).
1,135 reviews2,157 followers
October 26, 2022
This was a twisted, creepy thriller with a few literary fiction elements entangled in it. This will simultaneously thrill you and make you think for some time.

The story of the brother (John) and sister (Marion) and the secret they hide might shock you in certain parts. The secret in the cellar that the sister uncovers after John has gone through a heart attack will be a challenging portion to read.

My favorite three lines from this book.
"At the new school, she felt like a zoo animal that had strayed into the wrong enclosure: a bear trying to blend in with flamingos."

"Being out and amongst other people made her happy, yet the feeling was tinged with regret at having missed out on so much in life, staying in alone for so many countless evenings when other people were doing things like this, going to plays and musical concerts, eating in restaurants or just chatting to each other at parties."

“Memories, however, were everywhere for her, firmly glued to each object in the house.”

If you want to read a different thriller that won't disappoint you, this will be a good choice.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
168 reviews285 followers
July 31, 2017
“We are only as blind as we want to be”
--Maya Angelou

The lies we tell ourselves because the truth is too painful to bear. There exists the heart of Catherine Burns’ magnificent debut novel, The Visitors. All those tiny deceptions we use to make ourselves feel better. To justify our actions. Excuse the actions of others. Assuage guilt. DENY, DENY, DENY. But what happens when there’s nowhere left to run? When reality is force-fed and you confront something too horrific to accept?

Marion Zetland, a timid, fifty-something spinster, lives with her elder brother John in their parents once grand Georgian townhouse. Now in a state of disrepair, their home seems as dilapidated as Marion feels. But secrets lurk beneath the floorboards. John has “visitors” staying in their dark, dank basement. A basement Marion’s strictly forbidden from entering. Visitors that come, but never leave. Visitors that Marion never spots, but whose laundry she does weekly. Not to worry, John only wants to help them. That’s what Mother says. But when John suffers a heart attack, Marion must descend those dreaded steps into the unknown. How does Marion face a reality she’s unequipped to handle? The truth about her brother.

The Visitors is a character-driven piece with Marion as our tour guide. If you want non-stop action, this ain’t the book for you. It’s slow-burn and the action really doesn’t pick up until the last quarter of the book. Instead, we’re treated to an extended visit with Marion, who narrates through both present and flashback. Backstories are well-done and journey through Marion and John’s life. Highlighting the family’s many troubles, it’s like a superhero origin story, except the superhero? He’s really a monster. And while the story isn’t action-packed, characters are sufficiently interesting to drive the plot.

Marion is the focus. The star here. We’re glimpsing the world through her limited perspective. And limited is really the keyword. Having remained at home, never being employed or romantically attached, Marion’s life experience has been entirely filtered through her parents or brother. A group who never ceased in reminding Marion that she was plain, unintelligent, and incapable of caring for herself. “No one ever suggested what Marion might become, her future was of no importance whatsoever.”

Wholly dependent on her brother since her parents’ deaths, Marion blindly capitulates to his every whim. She’s so steeped in denial, preferring to live in a sort of perpetual fantasy world, that she refuses to consider what’s going on behind closed doors. She refers to the ladies lured and trapped in their house as “visitors” or “them.” Ostensibly dehumanizing them to avoid the truth. And it doesn’t help that Marion regularly hears Mother’s chiding, disappointed voice scolding her that “John only wants to help them.” Yup, it gets a little Norman Batesy up in here.

Marion’s sheltered existence and continued denial have left her in a childlike state. Desperately lonely, she refers to her childhood stuffed teddies as “her friends.” Her curious detachment when describing violent events could be how she survives. And maybe, her repeated denial and justifications are a defense mechanism. But is it equally possible still waters run deep? That there’s more to Marion than meets the eye?

Catherine Burns has done an extraordinary job designing a characters that simultaneously seems innocent, yet unbelievably creepy. It’s truly an unputdownable work. Hints are dropped, but are they hints? Is it our imagination? Painful truths are slowly unveiled leading to a stunning conclusion. Storytelling at its finest.

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for giving he an advanced, complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for Kendall.
638 reviews640 followers
October 13, 2017
What a fun traveling sister read with a huge group of ladies. I have to say that I definitely enjoyed reading alongside everyone!

The Visitors by Catherine Burns is a dark and disturbing thriller. I will be honest, I did not like this book at all. I was confused as to where the author was trying to go with this one and I really tried to understand the plot/characters. I felt that this novel was too much of a slow burn for my taste and I put the novel down multiple times because I was frequently bored.

Catherine Burns delivers a dark character study of two siblings Marion and John which is told from Marion's perspective. I am a huge fan of character driven novels but I was not a fan of Marion or John. I felt that Marion was pretty pathetic... I mean who fantasizes about things/people 24/7? Eh... and she was so naive/blind eye to what actually was going on in the cellar. This just really annoyed me and I kept rolling my eyes constantly with Marion.

I was confused as to where the author was trying to take the plot? I felt that the story focused too much on minor details and not enough of the "BIG" plot. All I felt reading this was about John and Marion's childhood drama. I was hoping and praying for some sort of twist or surprise but nothing. I did not feel scared or creeped out by this novel at all and was honestly bored and annoyed.

What I did enjoy about this novel was how easy it was to picture myself living with John and Marion. I felt the details were gory and pretty disturbing overall... getting into the mind fame of both John and Marion. I also enjoyed how the author left the ending up to her readers... she didn't really give much away but enough for her readers to finish "the story" for themselves.

Overall, I would give this a 2 stars. I was not impressed and this novel was just not for me.
Thank you to Netgalley, Catherine Burns, and Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books and Legend Press in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,732 reviews14.1k followers
October 15, 2017
A dysfunctional family, though using that word here may be a disservice to dysfunctional families. Parents, one extremely passive, father, a lecher and maybe more, Marion, sister, backwards, not much expected of nor by her and John, cruel and I think quite insane. Parents dead, now a grown brother and sister live alone, well except for whoever or whatever is in the basement.

It is hard to separate how I felt about the novel, or rather how this novel made me feel, with the quality of the novel. Discomfort in the main, and for lack of a better literary description, this book made me feel icky and grungy. Like the movies, What ever happened to Baby Jane or the Bad Seed, where you want to look away or can't quite believe what you are seeing, but find yourself looking or reading anyway.

The descriptions, the filth and clutter in the house actually sent me scurrying to see of I had any green mold or black fuzzy things in my refrigerator. I didn't, but cleaned it and my freezer anyway. Very slow, a detailed rendering of both characters as well as events in their past and what was happening now in the present. Clues are scattered here and there so by the time what was in the basement is revealed, most readers already have a pretty good idea. There were still a few revelatory surprises disclosed. So if the authors motive was to cause these kinds of feelings, then she succeeded, so I rated it a three. I wasn't quite satisfied with the denoument, thought she could have done more, gone a different way after the big build up, and she did leave a few threads hanging, unanswered questions that I had.

Another sisters read and as you can imagine provided ample fodder for discussion.

ARC from Netgalley.
Profile Image for Norma.
551 reviews12.2k followers
October 12, 2017
3.5 stars! I’m still undecided if I want to round up or down so down it is for now.

This was a Traveling Sister group read with Brenda, Diane, Kendall, Kaceey, Sarah, Jennifer, Mackey, Jan, and Holly. It's always fun and a pleasure to read with this wonderful group of ladies, even when we have differing thoughts about the book. So thanks again to all for another wonderful reading experience!

Dare I say this might have been a touch too twisted for this Twisted Sister!

THE VISITORS by CATHERINE BURNS was a disturbing, horrifying, and a creepy creepy read that clipped along at a steady pace and had me interested enough throughout to see how this was all going to play out. I’m really in two minds about this novel. On the one hand I really enjoyed it and I was scared, freaked out, and maybe even screamed a little while I was reading this book and I couldn’t put it down. On the other hand I don’t even know what to think of it as I thought it was just strange, there was no one to root for, and I couldn’t really see the point to it.

CATHERINE BURNS delivers an extremely dark, twisted, and a creepy character study of two middle aged siblings, John and Marion which is told through Marion’s perspective. The descriptions of their home was extremely detailed and vivid where I could really picture it in my mind. Most of this story was actually extremely vivid to a point that was quite disturbing to read but I needed to find out what was going on in that cellar.

To sum it all up it was a shocking, upsetting, cringe-worthy, and horrific psychological mystery that had me on the edge of my seat for most of this read. I did love it though that this book triggered such a strong reaction from me while I was reading it! Recommended with caution.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster Canada and Catherine Burns for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book in exchange for a review!!

All of our Traveling Sisters Reviews can be found on our sister blog:
Profile Image for Tina.
509 reviews782 followers
September 13, 2017
What a wicked, twisted tale this was! Brilliant debut by Catherine Burns! I really enjoyed this and was fully immersed in the story.

Marion and John are a mid-aged brother and sister who still live together in their old childhood home. Marion has always been weak, and quiet and fully dominated by her brother John since childhood. They were not raised in a particular happy home. Things were just always, "strange." Now that they've grown up things continue to be strange in the household. John preoccupies himself with spending most of his time in the cellar of their house and Marion keeps mainly to herself. The story is told through Marion's eyes. There are a few guessing or twisty moments but mostly it's just a well-crafted story of Marion's life.

I'm so glad I read this. I'd like to thank NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Canada for allowing me the opportunity to read this Advanced Reader's Copy.
October 13, 2017
Traveling Sisters Group Read with Norma. Kaceey, Diane, JanB, Sarah, Jennifer, and Kendall

I read this as a Traveling Sisters group read with seven of my Traveling Sisters. The Visitors had us split again on how we felt about this one and how much we enjoyed it.

The Visitors starts off slow and creepy catching some of our attention right away and leaving a couple sisters struggling with the pace of the story. Catherine Burns takes time here with our creepy main characters Marion and John. We really get to know Marion and we learn from her perspective about her relationship with John. From her, we learn just how disturbing John is. Marion takes us back to times in her childhood and we learn some of her backstory leaving some of us sympathetic to her and for one sister it was just too much for her. We really get right into the mind of Marion and hear many of her unsettling thoughts allowing us to feel sad, disturbed and sorry for her.

Catherine Burns does a good job here for some of us setting up the creeps and shivers and the fear of the unknown and pushing a couple of us right out of our comfort zones. For others, they were just bored with the pace of the story and didn’t feel much of the creeps but a few icky feelings. Catherine Burns does a good job setting the atmosphere with her vivid descriptions of the creepy home and that had some of us doing a little tidying up and cleaning out our fridges.

At times this one felt like walking through a house of horrors with all the predictable elements you would expect but still being afraid of what you might find in the end. There is plenty of creeps and shivers along the way however the ending for most didn’t fulfill those feelings. I think we pretty much split up into two coulees for this one hmm I am going to the cellars. Some sisters ended up in the cellar with its creeps, shivers and fear and others in the cellar with creepy, icky and I am bored. The ending did have us asking a few questions and we enjoyed discussing them. Catherine Burns cleverly leaves some questions unknown for us to think about. Even though this one didn’t work for some of us I still recommend with caution to finding a comfy chair and settle in to find out what’s in the cellar for yourself.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster Canada and Catherine Burns for the opportunity to read and review an advanced copy.

All of our Traveling Sisters Reviews can be found on our sister blog:
Profile Image for Sarah Joint.
445 reviews984 followers
October 12, 2017
This was a group read (hello, Traveling Sisters!) that divided the ladies. I fall into the higher rating camp. It's dark, it's odd, and it'll probably leaving you scratching your head at the end and feeling unsettled. It's also a very slow burn that's more of a character study which takes you inside the head of a very unusual person.

As a child, Marion was bullied by her peers and brushed aside by her parents, who always preferred her brother with his superior intelligence. She could never learn as quickly as anyone else, and also lacked the social skills to make up for it. As an adult, she's a fantasist. She's completely inexperienced with relationships, and spends most of her day imagining how things could be while completely ignoring the fact that things cannot change unless you make them. Now in her fifties, she still resides in the house she grew up in. She never married or even had a boyfriend. She has no close friends. She has only John, her brother... and that's not saying much.

Glimpses into their past tell us about their awful parents, but what could excuse what John keeps in the basement? The ordinarily very passive Marion is relatively content to act like she has no idea what's going on. Don't rock the boat. Don't make John angry. Until the day comes when it's no longer an option.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need a shower to wash the creepy weirdness that is this book off me. I can't do anything about it popping back into my head though...

I received an ARC of this book from Net Galley and Legend Press, thank you! My review is honest and unbiased.
Profile Image for Holly  B (Short break!).
812 reviews1,862 followers
October 12, 2017
A dark read that kept me reading...

Open the book and enter the world of the twisted siblings Marion and John! Are these two ill, deranged, or just plain evil?? This is a disturbing book on many levels and not for someone looking for an uplifting read! I knew that when I requested to read it and wanted to get out of my comfort level and see how I would feel. I read Jewels review (loved the review) and decided to give it a try. I agree that it had a gothic feel to it and creepy like the Bates Motel as well!

A strong ominous feeling hovered over the book like a dark cloud. The author was detailed in her descriptions of the family and their history including all the "ugliness". It gave me a creepy feeling and apprehension, but not the heart racing, page turning or adrenaline caused from reading a "suspenseful thriller."

This was more of a character driven analysis of the impulsive mind that seems to have no self-control, no remorse and no ability to change the road they have chosen. Or maybe, they choose this road because they are simply evil with twisted minds.

The author had me feeling strongly about the characters, though disturbing and unforgiving for things they had done. It was like watching an episode of 48 Hours or Dateline where I'm transfixed to the story, but utterly repulsed! (If that makes sense!)

Traveling sister read with Norma, Jennifer, Kendall, Brenda, Diane, Mackey, Sarah , Jan and Kaceey and it was a great hearing everyone's take on this dark one!

Thanks to Netgalley/Legends Press/Katherine Burns
Published on October 3,2017
Profile Image for Dash fan .
1,463 reviews705 followers
October 22, 2017
4☆ Very Dark, Very disturbing, Eerie, 

When I was asked on The Visitors Blog Tour I wasn't too sure what to expect from the book, after reading alot of mixed reviews.

What I can say now after reading it, is that The Visitors is very disturbing, Very Dark, Creepy and very unnerving, some would say the perfect horror Thriller. This would certainly make a great Halloween Film.

I adore thrillers but The Visitors is a book that plays with your mind. It's unsettling and some readers could definitely find it uncomfortable. Proceed with caution as this book is Definetly not for the faint hearted!

What I did like was the main character Marion. I really enjoyed how Catherine Burns delved straight into Marion's life.
The story is written in Marion's point of view. Her life, her heartbreaking story.
Marion has never felt love which really upset me. She has an immense self Loathing and a very low opinion of herself through the years of emotional torture from everyone!
She quiet clearly has a learning disability but her parents just disregarded this.
Which only added to her bullying and Torment.

Her Brother John at first comes across as very protective of Marion but his brutal attempts at protecting her was horrifying and at time sickening.
 It was at this point I knew John was pure Evil!! 

John spends all his time down the cellar with his 'Visitors '  do we know who they are?? Why are they down there?? What is he doing to them?? What or who are the Visitors?
You will have to read to find out.

This book is definitely not for the faint hearted!!!
This book will completlely mess with your head. 
It's a very hard read even for me and I enjoy dark thrillers. 
For me this book put me out of my comfort zone and made me feel on edge. 
Why did I keep on reading??..... because for some insane reason I was compelled to.... I just had to get answers! 
I was pulled into the twisted world of Marion and John and I needed to find out who was down in the cellar and would Marion ever get her happy ending!

This book does contain violence, and swearing which some readers may not like.

This is a very different book to what I am used to reading, but I can already see The Visitors is going to have Huge Potential!
Definetly one to watch!! 

Now the question is..... would I recommend this book??
Well I would definitely recommend this book if you like Horror, Graphic scenes, Dark Thrillers, Mind Games, Your skin crawling, Eerie, Creepy reads! Then this really is the book for you!! 

I received this book from the Publisher in exchange for a honest and fair review, in which I voluntarily reviewed.

My Review is also on my blog website:
Profile Image for Taryn.
325 reviews299 followers
October 24, 2017
Fifty-four-year-old Marion and her older brother John have lived together for the last twenty years. Marion is jealous of the time John spends in the cellar with his "visitors." She never sees the mysterious inhabitants, but she doesn't dare go down the dark stairwell to investigate. It's best not to ask too many questions!

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?

The eccentric siblings live in the six-bedroom home they grew up in. The house and its inhabitants are perpetually stuck in time. Their neighbor's home is exactly the same style, but "[seems] to exist about a thousand years in the future." Their mother meticulously maintained the estate when she was alive, but its condition has rapidly deteriorated in the two decades since her death. Every surface is covered in dust and cobwebs and the hallways are littered with broken appliances and old newspapers. The home is filled with so much junk that Marion feels "like a little mouse trying to burrow through it all." Mother would not approve!

The specter of the visitors is always hanging over the story, but most of the book is about Marion and John's unhappy childhood and the disturbing episodes that shaped Marion. After years of mistreatment, Marion is frumpy, unassertive, and emotionally stunted. She's been largely ignored her entire life, but the people who do notice her repeatedly tell her that she's unattractive and unintelligent. Her brother once said that if the human race was more like Marion, "it was unlikely they would have evolved much beyond the level of jellyfish." Her parents had little ambition for her; her temperamental father once said that Marion was "just too sensitive for the big wide world, and more suited to staying at home." Their mother clearly favored John and seemed to resent Marion's existence. There were many finicky rules in their home and Mother was always fussing at them do things in the proper manner. Even decades after Mother's death, Marion continues to hear Mother's passive-aggressive voice berating her from the great beyond. Their mother constantly told them stories of all the horrific things that lurked in the outside world, while willfully ignoring what was going on inside her own house.

Marion is offended when people see her as old because she still feels like a child inside. She's never experienced life outside of her family home. Life has passed her by, but she feels powerless to change her circumstances. She's internalized every rude thing that's been said about her and doesn't think she's capable or deserving of obtaining anything better. She feels trapped, but part of that is self-inflicted. She feels like she needs a physical barrier between her and the outside world. As meek as Marion is, she also has a nasty streak. She has a tendency to blame the victim in the television shows she watches. The harsh judgments give her an intoxicating sense of power that she doesn't usually get to feel in her day-to-day life.

John is arrogant and cruel, but Marion has always idolized him. She always defers to his "superior" judgment and he knows exactly how to manipulate her. Sometimes she stands up to him, but she quickly backs down because she can't withstand the crushing weight of his silent rage. There's no way she can betray her beloved brother. What would happen to her if he left? Plus, Marion has a vivid imagination and isn't confident in her perceptions. She often escapes to a rich fantasy life in her head, where she has a dramatic and meaningful existence that mirrors the Lifetime-esque movies she enjoys watching. Sometimes her daydreams become a little too real, causing her to wonder if she's going mad like her Great Aunt Phyllis. Did she conjure up the cellar dwellers to make her life more exciting? 

“You are the kind of evil that comes from nothing, from neglect and loneliness. You are like mould that grows in damp dark places, black dirt gathered in corners, a fatal infection that begins with a speck of dirt in an unwashed wound.”

If you like character-driven stories that embrace their unrelenting darkness, this book might be for you. It was my ideal type of creepy slow burner: bizarre family dynamics, damaged characters, and a large, decaying house. It's the type of twisted book that makes me think there is something wrong with me for liking it! :D (Perhaps an attraction to dark tales is a side effect of being born near Halloween!) While reading, I felt discomfort, dread, uneasiness, horror, and a little bit of nausea. I hope I'm not being too misleading in saying this, but the general mood and atmosphere reminded me of Faulkner's A Rose for Emily (but really, it's no worse comparison than Room!) I recommend not reading the publisher's description, because it reveals something that happens in the last quarter of the book. I don't think I would've been a fan of this one if I was anticipating anything specific, especially something so deep in the story! Warning for animal lovers: Animals tend to meet terrible fates around this family.

Sometimes Marion imagines what awful things must be happening in the cellar, but she quickly dismisses those unpleasant thoughts. It's much easier not to think about it! Throughout the story we see how easy it can be to turn a blind eye to the obvious, even things inside of ourselves. The characters in this book have no trouble living with their sins. It makes you wonder what secrets the most unassuming people could be hiding and what unseen dangers could be lurking close-by. The Visitors is a chilling tale that's sometimes a little too terrifyingly real.

I received this book for free from Netgalley and Legends Press. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. It's available now!
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,121 reviews30.2k followers
October 13, 2017
3.75 stars rounded up for The Visitors.

This was a Traveling Sister read with a large group, and it made for some fun discussions and a wide range of feelings on the book!

The Visitors had a slower start for me. The backstory was lengthy, but mostly necessary to progress the plot. More of a character study than a thriller, Catherine Burns' descriptions added atmosphere, and the way she built the story had many of us feeling physical signs of fear as we read! The writing was powerful in order to evoke that emotion.

That said, this book was disturbing and horrific, and the reader should definitely know that going in. Its darkness was also incredibly original, and for that I found it a worthy read.

Overall, this made for a creepy book to read in October and an interesting sister discussion!

Thanks to Jenny O'Regan, the author, and the publisher, for the complimentary copy. This was my unsolicited review.
Profile Image for Steven.
1,063 reviews383 followers
September 11, 2017
Boy, did that book make me feel dirty, tainted, grimy... like Lady MacBeth trying to scrub off the imaginary blood that she just couldn't shake.

This book... I don't know what to say other than TWISTED. It's completely twisted. It's fantastically twisted. It'll wriggle its way into your brain and make you unable to put it down until the very end. And ironically enough, very little happens for most of the book -- but you don't realize that until you get to the real happenings. The characters are so fleshed out, and you'll start to get an idea of what's going on as the pages pass, and even knowing that, you won't be able to stop.

Highly recommended for those who like dark and twisted and character depth.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Beverly.
805 reviews290 followers
August 17, 2018
This is one eerie, scary read. You know how some books get under your skin and latch into your brain and won't let go, no? If you read this you will. How Catherine Burns understands these siblings, a weird brother and sister, is beyond me, but she does. She tells their horrific, sad, sick story from Marion's point of view and it's her thoughts that get inside your head. At first you feel sorry for her, especially in childhood flashbacks which show the cruelty she endured from her peers and the neglect and coldness from her parents, but then you realize she has become a monster too. The ending was quite surprising and darkly humorous.
This is one sick book. Brava!
Profile Image for Sue.
2,690 reviews170 followers
October 22, 2017
What can I say. I've dithered between 3 stars and 4 all week.

Why did I almost choose 3 stars?
Because this took me a bit of time to adjust to, the story was drawn out a bit. BUT.....
I chose 4 stars because it "had" to be to get the background of the story however, I didn't realise that until later so it settled with me fine in the end.

I thought Marion who lives with an older brother a bit annoying, well......very annoying infact, she loved her teddy bears, loved her food and her TV, reasoned like a little child BUT then......

I had to change it to a 4 star because....
There was a huge reason for her being like this and it all tied in. She no longer became annoying she became someone I felt sorry for, someone I had compassion for [for a little while] as I could reason why she was responding to certain things in such a manner even for her age.

No matter how I felt about some negatives they very soon turned around to be positives.

This author did a fabulous job on me, from just tagging a long with the book wondering what the hell I was reading to BANG, this was good. I then started to quickly turn the pages of this book. I had some idea of what her brother was 'upto' but not the exact reason why or warpness that surrounded this brother and sister.

I'm not wanting to give anything away.

I will say, if you are looking for a heart stopping moment....its soon, real soon.
If you are looking for a fast paced thriller.......not this one. This is one you read, think about, maybe at times think its not going anywhere until you suddenly reach the end and there is that busy main road where your brain has to take everything in at once, its not used to it because its been a nice easy walk so far, then WOOOOO the heat is on.

Its a book I will remember for a few years to come. Not because of its impact but because of its style.

This is definitely going to be a marmite book where people will either love it or hate it or just think "what in the hell have I just read" good, bad or indifferent.

Before you write your review, sit and think on it, sit and think where the author wanted to take you and make sure...........................it wasn't the cellar!!!!

My thanks to LEGEND PRESS for my copy of this superb book

tour photo the visitors Blog Tour Banner jpeg.jpg
Profile Image for Carrie.
3,153 reviews1,513 followers
August 31, 2017
Marion Zetland is now in her fifties and still living with her domineering older brother, John, in their family home after both of their parents have long since passed. Marion never knew what love was or had a family of her own so John has been the only one close in her life for years forcing her to rely heavily upon him. Marion overlooks things that should be red flags when it comes to John with him being all that she has until one night John suffers a heart attack forcing Marion to confront what he's been hiding all these years.

The Visitors by Catherine Burns was one of those books I was a bit on the fence about and had to debate on how to rate when I was finished. The book primarily seemed to read more like a family drama looking back at John and Marion over the years showing both of them to be flawed characters in their own ways. Marion who is the main character wasn't particularly likable but there was also an extreme curiosity that built to know just where the author was taking the story.

One of the biggest things I found with this though that brings my rating down was the extreme slowness of the book to unravel just what the actual plot was going to bring. The official synopsis mentions John having a heart attack but this particular event is well into the book which shows that overall the story is about 80% build up then the huge reveal seemed a bit rushed to a conclusion after so much build.

In the end I decided on giving this one 3.5 stars. The author does have a nice writing style that despite the slowness of the build I still wanted to continue to read so I would definitely try another by this author again.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.wordpress....
Profile Image for JanB .
1,143 reviews2,491 followers
October 12, 2017
This was a Traveling Sister read with Norma, Brenda, Diane, Kendall, Kaceey, Sarah, Jennifer, Mackay, and Holly. It's always fun to read with this group of ladies, even when we don't all enjoy the book.

I found the book description intriguing, and while I normally enjoy character studies I found the first 60% of the book slow and repetitive with a lot of flashbacks and mundane details of daily life. I did find my opinion of one of the character's changed as more was revealed but I was still bored. The last 40% dealt with a subject so distasteful and the details so repulsive, it left me slightly sick and feeling like I needed a shower.

When the twist came at the end it was too little, too late for me. Overall, this was not one I would recommend.

*many thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of the book for review.
Profile Image for Schizanthus Nerd.
1,151 reviews239 followers
September 18, 2017

Client Name: Marion Zetland

Age: 54, but looks 60

Personal Appearance: Frizzy brown hair that looks like she stuck her finger in a powerpoint, in desperate need of surgery to implant a sense of fashion

Relevant Family History: Rich in money (business: Zetland's Fine Fabrics) but not affection. Emotionally unavailable mother. Weirdo father. Psycho brother

Education: Attended three schools yet appears to have learned little at any of them

Lives: In her own little world

Home Life: Resides with her older brother, John, and various 'visitors' in her childhood six-bedroom home. Sleeps in her childhood attic bedroom

Home's hoarder level: Expert

Cleanliness of home: Sorry, but I can't see under the dust to assess this

Social Life: Does being friends with stuffed animals count?

Culinary Prowess: Toast, reheating tinned or packet food

Maladaptive Coping Mechanisms: Denial, binge-eating, denial, daydreaming, denial, living through TV shows, denial

Special Abilities: Invisibility, ability to transfigure into a doormat

Mantra: If I don't pay attention to it then it's not really happening

Favourite Books: Include The Secret Garden and the Harry Potter series (OK, so she has some redeeming qualities after all)

Relationship and Employment History: Did you just hear a pin drop?

Overall Assessment: This woman, whose emotional and social development halted somewhere in early childhood, needs a big dose of 'wake up to yourself!' A victim of her upbringing but complicit in her failure to get a life, her only expertise appears to be in not having any accountability for how her life has turned out or the choices she's made or refused to make (honey, refusing to do anything is also a choice).

And the winners of the You Should've Been Sterilised at Birth category ... 🥁... Marion and John's parents!

Is it possible to want to keep reading a book when you despise the two main characters and wish them slow, excruciating deaths? Apparently.

Is it also possible to wander aimlessly between empathy and wanting to knock some sense into one of the main characters for almost the entire book? You betcha.

The Visitors is a difficult book to review. There's so much I want to say but don't want to give anything away. It was well written and a scarily accurate fly on the wall look into the lives of one seriously dysfunctional family. I've heard some seriously dysfunctional people saying some of the things that come out of these characters' mouths almost word for word.

I imagine this will be a polarising book as it delves into some disturbing themes and although evil is most certainly committed by multiple characters, you can also see enough of the gears working inside their heads that you get an understanding of why they may choose to behave that way. I'm definitely not giving them a free pass here. Their actions are reprehensible and yet, there was a part of me that still wanted to empathise with them, just a little bit. I guess my obsession fascination with why people do the evil they do had a morbidly enjoyable feast during this book.

My main annoyance with this book came at the ending. I was hoping it would turn out differently (that's being nice - I actually wanted to punch someone) but perhaps I can borrow a smidgen Marion's fantasy world ability and imagine my own end to the story. Love it or hate it, this is going to be a talked about book. I can see it working well as a book club read.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley (thank you so much to NetGalley and Hachette Australia for the opportunity) in exchange for honest feedback. I'd also like to say a special thanks to Erin at Hachette Australia for her excellent customer service.
Profile Image for Zuky the BookBum.
592 reviews313 followers
October 5, 2017
Here is yet another book on my list of recent reviews that has been nothing like I expected it to be! Which seems to be the general consensus with this one, but while lots of reviewers were being disappointed by this, I wasn’t. I was perfectly happy with the way this one turned out. So happy, in fact, that I thought it deserved a 5 star review!

I can’t get over the fact that this is a debut novel. I know there are lots of debuts out there that are incredible, but it’s been so long since I discovered one that I’m in awe of this one! Burns’ has such a skill to her penmanship you’d have thought she’s been delivering bestsellers for years.

I think the downfall, to others, for this one is the lack of story and plot development. The synopsis has you believe there will be an amazing discovery in the cellar of Marion’s house, when the reality is (and maybe this is a slight spoiler) Marion knows what’s in the cellar all along… and so do we. It’s pretty obvious from page one.

Personally, the fact that the storytelling was on the backburner in this one didn’t bother me. I was so enthralled and amazed by Marion as a character that I was more than happy reading all about her sad, lonely life. People are obsessed with things that are different or conceived as ‘weird’, hence the millions of online lists about them and the old school “freak shows”, and when we see something weird or different, we gawp, we can’t look away. This is exactly how I felt about Marion. I couldn’t look away.

That’s not the say there wasn’t a story in this one, of course there was! It was just slow and didn’t go particularly far. Not in the sense that some books do, where there is a definitive beginning occurrence, middle occurrence and the end big-bang- occurrence.

Do not read this book if you’re feel lonely or melancholy, because my God, this one might just send you into a spiralling depression. It is seriously upsetting in places…

The writing, the characters and the mood of this book were absolutely superbly done. I can’t wait to read whatever Burns’ comes up with next.

Thank you so much to Legend Press for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Liz Barnsley.
3,430 reviews989 followers
October 5, 2017
Hmm. Yes. Well what to say about "The Visitors"

This is a beautifully written, highly disturbing and incredibly edgy debut, one of those that leaves you with a murky feeling right down in the depths of your stomach. Don't be fooled into thinking you'll get a standard psychological thriller, or a horror story, or a crime novel because whilst The Visitors could be described peripherally as all of those things, it is in fact not really any of them. Or wasn't to me at least.

Catherine Burns has written an extremely compelling and genuinely unpredictable character study as we meet Marion, in her 50's, downtrodden and overlooked by the world, her own mother feeding her insecurities both before and after death, who lives with a domineering, overbearing elder brother. Her love for John is one of the most disturbing aspects within the majority of this story - especially as it becomes clear early on just what it is that lurks down in that cellar. Marion for me was a character who garnered both sympathy and random anger as she struggles to find anything in herself to love and relies almost entirely on John for any kind of human contact.

Most of the book flows gently yet achingly horrifically forward as Marion begins slowly but surely to see exactly who she is, who she has become and who she could be. It is often a difficult read, certainly a visceral one, Catherine Burns brings the decaying house, the out of the corner of your eye cellar and Marion herself to disquieting, disconcerting life. An inciting event changes everything and Marion's eventual awakening is chilling and surprisingly impacting.

Overall a really excellent debut. Go in with no expectations and just let this one wash over you. I have not doubt that it will engage you emotionally, whether you come out of the other side loving it or not.


Profile Image for Bam cooks the books ;-).
1,848 reviews231 followers
September 26, 2017
*4-4.5 stars.

What becomes of a child who grows up without love? Who is relentlessly bullied, teased, made fun of, ignored?

"You are the kind of evil that comes from nothing, from neglect and loneliness. You are like mold that grows in damp dark places, black dirt gathered in corners, a fatal infection that begins with a speck of dirt in an unwashed wound."

Marion and John Zetland, unmarried siblings in their late fifties/early sixties, still live in their childhood home which is falling down around their ears from neglect. Marion, a homely, chubby, frumpy old maid who sleeps with teddy bears, is very much under John's thumb, catering to his every whim, trying not to upset him, and never questioning what is going on down in the cellar--even when she hears the screams...

Such character-driven thrillers are so terrifying because they are about the kind of people society tends to ignore and dismiss, people who seem of no consequence. And then when the truth comes to light, the neighbors are quoted as saying things like, 'I can't believe it! They have always been so quiet, so polite! Who would believe what evil lurks behind closed doors?'

This book is so addictive--you will not be able to put it down! And this is Catherine Burns' debut effort! I can't wait to see what she will write next.

Many thanks to NetGalley, the author and publisher for giving me the opportunity to read an arc of this new thriller.

Profile Image for Leslie.
1,127 reviews228 followers
October 8, 2017
Marion is a single woman in her fifties. She’s not divorced or widowed or single after a relationship. She is single as in she’s never had as much as a kiss. Mentally, she’s a child. She lives in her derelict childhood home that from descriptions, seems like an episode of Hoarders waiting to happen. Marion’s older, bachelor brother John lives there as well. Their parents have long passed but Marion’s mother is alive and well in her head. Her brother John spends all his time down in the cellar. Marion prefers not to think about what he’s doing down there. She sometimes hears the yelling but pushes that to the back of her mind too. Oh my goodness. This book was insane but in the best way. Creepy and crazy. Sad and horrific. I kind of felt like it was a combination of Psycho, the book, “Room,” VC Andrews novels and a dash of any Bronte sister. Does that even make sense? If you’re looking for a fast paced thriller, this isn’t the book for you. It takes its time, slowly building the tension, making you stay trapped in Marion’s mind which isn’t the healthiest place to be. It doesn’t go for cheap thrills, the suspense is subtle but exquisite. I still am not sure how I feel about the ending. It was not a bad ending but I’m not sure it was the right one. That being said, I don’t know what resolution I would have chose. Overall, a fantastic read.
Profile Image for Melissa.
560 reviews802 followers
October 17, 2017
I tried. I really did. I kept waiting for John’s heart attack for having — finally — some action. I dnf at 46%. John was still alive. I can’t do it. Marion is a sad little woman who has been miserable all her life. She has been living in her head, with her little fantasies, and is stuck mentally at 13y.o., not the 45ish that she is really.

I received an e-ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Rachel.
546 reviews48 followers
December 16, 2017
4 Very Creepy Stars

This British psychological thriller was the definition of creepy! It was the literary equivalent of driving past a car accident and not being able to look away, I didn't actually WANT to verify what I suspected was happening but I absolutely couldn't stop reading.

Marion grew up in a large house that had been in her mother's family for generations in a charming English oceanside town. Along with the house came a large inheritance. Her family life should have been idyllic but was far from it. Marion was chubby, unattractive and extremely socially awkward. Her mother couldn't make it through the day without her pills. Worst of all, there was something seriously "off" with her father and brother. The whole family was scared of her brother John. They always walked on eggshells around John, never wanting to upset him. And then, there was the cellar - what were her dad and brother always doing down there??? Marion and her mother never wanted to know badly enough to go down there to find out.

As the years pass and both of their parents have died, Marion and John find themselves still living in the house in their mid-50's and not exactly living well. There are so many things in the house that are not right; top on that list is still the cellar. What is going on in that cellar???

Yay! More Brit-lit!!! And this book was jammed with Brit-terms and novelties; lots of biscuits and tea were are being consumed, people were "visiting the loo" and "off to uni." The descriptions of the British ocean side weather were lovely; either sunny days with an ocean breeze or continuous rain. I was completely fascinated with the old moneyed British people trappings; the inherited china, old substantial furniture, her mother's obsession with not appearing "common" even though her own family has a creepiness factor that would make the Adams Family jealous.

I loved the plot. Soooooo creepy! The reader starts putting pieces together and slowly figures out what's going on. But does the reader really want to know what's going on or should they follow Marion and her mother's "ignorance is bliss " philosophy?

Although none of the characters were particularly likeable, I couldn't help desperately hoping they would do the right thing and redeem themselves. I kept pulling for Marion even though I didn't really like her.

As a character, Marion was fascinating. I wondered what exactly her issue was. Was she just inexperienced and awkward? Would she have turned out differently if she had been raised in a different house with a different family? Did she have some sort of learning challenge? Low IQ maybe? What kept her trapped inside her life?

This book is definitely not for everyone. It's very dark and goes deep into some messy minds. It was disturbing and hard to read in many places.

The ending left too many loose ends. I'm pretty sure I criticized the last book I read for having too "neat" of an ending so maybe sounds like i just cannot be be pleased.

Don't read this book when you're home alone on a rainy night, especially if you live in a big old house with an unfinished basement...
Profile Image for Erica Ferencik.
Author 8 books892 followers
May 3, 2018
Wonderful read!
A slow, weird burn of a book, not for the faint of heart or anyone looking for simple answers or "likeable" characters, please save me from those.. But if you like scary, strange, what-the-hell's-going-to-happen here sort of books, this is the one for you.
Profile Image for Dianne.
6,766 reviews588 followers
August 22, 2017
She grew up in a wealthy, but cold and dysfunctional family. That was just the beginning of a sad, lonely and socially inept life that tormented and twisted a middle-aged woman into the culmination of every monster that had ever terrified her. Catherine Burns’ THE VISITORS is a raw and brutally dark tale of the horrors of one woman’s life as she lives in self-denial of the horrendous secrets her domineering older brother kept in the cellar.

It is a tale of self-deception, of denial and of finally facing the truth about the life she has lived. It is a tale of always being treated as less until finally, Marion believes it is true. Marion knows she is unworthy of love, of happiness, and with only her brother John to share her life with, she accepts the emotional cruelty he provides, because, after all, he doesn’t mean it, right?

It will all change when John must be hospitalized and Marion must enter the forbidden cellar and face the truths she has always denied. From that day forward, a new Marion will be born, a new Marion will grow and in that growth, Marion will not be a doormat anymore.

Catherine Burns tells a story that will sear your soul, because there is no hero, there is no heroine, there is no joy, but there is an ending you will not see coming. This story simmers across each page, like the smoldering remains of a fire that never grew bright.

I received an ARC edition from Gallery/Scout Press in exchange for my honest review.

Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press (September 26, 2017)
Publication Date: September 26, 2017
Genre: Literary Fiction
Print Length: 304 pages
Available from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
For Reviews & More: http://tometender.blogspot.com

Profile Image for Selena.
488 reviews309 followers
October 7, 2017
I received an copy of Goodreads for my honest review. 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.
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