A socially awkward middle-aged woman learns some dark truths about her family in Burns’ debut psychological thriller.
Marion Zetland has always been lonely, and now, in her 50s and living with her brother, John, in a pigsty of a house, she has no one but her stuffed animals and imaginary friend to turn to when she’s frightened. And there is reason to be frightened in that house—she can hear occasional screams and cries coming from the basement, where John spends most of his time. These are the voices of the visitors, and Marion avoids any interaction with the visitors. But when John is injured in an accident, their care falls to Marion, so she ventures past the locked doors of the cellar for the first time, driven by the fretful cries of a baby to confront those who live there. The novel sets up plenty of creeps and shivers, but the revelation, the true nature of the visitors, disappoints rather than fulfills these feelings. Burns had the opportunity to play with and explore the haunted-house genre, to explore the line between human madness and the supernatural, but there is something of a rush to give a logical explanation for Marion’s fears, for John’s behaviors, and while there is still a twist at the end, it leaves the reader feeling little sympathy for the characters because so few of them are developed beyond the surface. Even Marion, through whose eyes we get most of the action and description, is hard to feel strongly about. This leaves the experience of reading the novel hollow and unsatisfying.
The creepiness begins as a slow burn, but logic ruins the sense of horror—despite the horrible truth that lurks in the basement.