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The Intruders is a standalone novel by the British author Michael Marshall, best known for his book The Straw Men. I had The Intruders sitting at home on a shelf for several years now, and the reason why I picked it up now is because the TV show The Intruders, based on the book, has just started airing, premiered by BBC America.
I watched the first two episodes online on Youtube and while watching them, I remembered I have the book. So I left every other book project behind for a little bit and picked it up, dusted its cover and got to reading.
And wow what a book it was! I’ve read it in one afternoon, started about 5 pm and finished it sometimes late at night in bed. And at close to 400 pages, this was no small feat indeed!
Having watched the first two episodes already, I read the first few chapters of the book with the characters faces in my mind. I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or bad, but I know for sure that I didn’t get that ‘slow’ negative vibe that many other readers talked about on Goodreads. For many reader, the first part of the book was kind of slow, the pace only picking up towards the middle of the book.
I think during the first few chapters, I was more busy with comparing the book to the TV show, to see how much they altered the story line in translation. And to be honest, so far they’ve kept it pretty aligned with the book events. If you’ve watched the show, one of the major differences so far was the scene with Maddison and the cat in the bath tub. That scene doesn’t exist in the book. But otherwise so far the show stays pretty much on course with what is going on in the novel.
Coming back to the story – what is it about? First of all this is not your typical crime mystery, it is so much more than that. The book starts with a bang – a crime in progress, where we get the main idea of the book – it’s gonna be a lot of crime, gore and suspense.
Next we get a look at Jack Whalen, an ex-cop now turned true crime author, with a heavy personal baggage, who has left the big city for a more secluded and quiet area, along with his big love and wife, Amy.
Amy is a heavy shooter at a huge advertising firm, who works many hours and is away from home quite a lot. But never without speaking at least once a day with Jack, no matter how busy her schedule is.
Jack is at home, doing his boring stunt of sitting by the window (not feeling like working on his next book at all) and waiting for Amy to come home. But Amy seems to have disappeared…
The focus next shifts to a little girl of age 9, Madison, who is in living at the moment in a small cottage by the sea with her mother, who for some reason seems rather absent minded and not caring about her daughter all that much. Madison loves walking around the beach, when she meets someone who changes the course of her life within the day. Soon she disappears from home, while her parents are frantically looking for her everywhere, along with the police – and apparently even the FBI represented by an older agent with the name Shepherd.
As the book progresses more characters are introduced, which would have probably made it a bit confusing for me to follow all, if I hadn’t watched the first two episodes of the show, where they were already introduced. Of course all these different characters have a strong connection with each other and it will all be revealed toward the end of the book.
Reviewing this type of book is really difficult without any spoilers because even one spoiler mentioned would probably give away the big secret. When you read the book, many things will be clear to you quite early on, although Jack will be a bit slower on the uptake.
So Amy disappears, Jack is trying to find her, Madison has her owns story to tell and we get to meet an ancient secret society which a specific goal and role to play in all this.
We read about a whole range of emotions experienced by the various characters, from sadness, anger to serious paranoia. The whole premise is short of fantastic and bordering on the occult and supernatural.
When I watched Jack on TV, his actions in lieu of his missing wife seemed a bit off. I know if my husband were missing, I would go about it in a different way. However reading the book it make it all clear and justified. As an ex-cop he has the skills to investigate and his actions come from a deep fear from within about his ex-wife, fear which so far hasn’t been translated all that much to the TV screen. Maybe there is another reason for her disappearance afterall. Of course, Jack needs to get to the bottom of it, and what he finds really gave me goosebumps. If such thing really existed for real…
I found the story well written, the suspense creeping up on us almost undetected. What I enjoyed a lot was Jack’s rather cynical and philosophical view on so many things about life. For example, this is what he has to say about advertising – the very field his wife works in:
“Advertising…it’s a profession that seeks to make people spend money so that folks they don’t know can buy an even bigger house. In this way it’s somewhat like organized crime, except the hours are longer”
Having come from a similar job in the corporate world back in the day – this quote sums it up really well, scarily so indeed.
However the quote that really stuck with me due to it being so true on such a basic and raw level was this:
“When you meet someone you love, then you change for good. That’s why the other person will never know or understand the earlier you, and why you can never change back. And why, when that person starts to go, you’ll feel the tear deep in your heart long before your head has the slightest clue what’s going on.”
I think everyone has experienced this feeling and it’s horrible, painful and scary. Michel Marshall sprinkles the entire book with such nuggets of wisdom – yes, in the same book where gore, crime and supernatural are fighting for their own rightful place to take.
Overall this is one heck of a book. The only reason I give it 4.5 stars is because of the ending. I felt it far from satisfying, and if it’s really what I think it is – the author has to write a second book, because leaving us hanging like that after faithfully following him to the end – is just too much.
In the meantime I’ll be watching The Intruders on TV. I’m really curious to see how they resolve the mystery in the show and how they go around the strange ending.