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Michael Marshall - The Intruders
Michael Marshall is an author I have a lot of time for. He lives in North London and used to write under the name Michael Marshall Smith for those of you who were not aware. He wrote a novel under the name M.M.Smith in 2008 before reverting back to Michael Marshall.
'The Intruders' has been nominated for the Steel Dagger Literary award.
Published by Harper Collins who now mix there sources to make books to save trees working with controlled forests and other sources.
Why Did I read this book?
I was given a hardback copy of this novel in 2008 by my Mother for my birthday. Due to being a devourer and hoarder of books aplenty, it somehow got hidden, in plain sight, amongst other books in one of my three huge bookcases.
I saw it a couple of weeks ago and having read the 'Ward Hopkins' trilogy, 'The Straw Men', 'The Lonely Dead' and 'Blood Of Angels' by the same author, it garnered my attention by the way of a 'Ooh I forgot about that' moment.
Armed with a feeling of birthday gift gratitude I bedded down to begin a journey that would not disappoint me in the slightest. Marshall is one of the most innovative and daring thriller writers around and I soon got hooked on the storyline.
Jack Whalen is a former traffic cop who left the force under tenuous circumstances, to say the least. He now struggles between wannabe author and limbo escapee. The one constant in his life is his wife Amy.
When Amy goes missing on a business trip Jakes worry soon turns to fear after going in search of her and uprooting some strange goings on; something a lot more sinister and mysterious than he was expecting anyway.
An old school friend, Gary Fisher, gets in touch with Jack about the will of a prominent business man who was his employer. Fisher has unearthed a series of strange abductions and murders and some shady deals.
Meanwhile a young girl named Madison goes missing after a strange encounter with a man on a beach, to the obvious dismay of her parents. A strange man named Shepherd who says he's with the F.B.I leaves Madison's parents his card and goes off in search of the little girl. The girls behavior is erratic and not that of an ordinary ten year old girl.
Jack is thrown into a dark world of cover-ups, deceit, dark secrets and sinister truths that he would never have known existed and he not stumbled upon them in his panic to find his wife.
Is Jack's wife the woman he thought she was? Who is Shepherd? Is Gary Fisher telling him everything? Who or what is behind the door of the boarded up building that seems to be unoccupied but has a telephone ringing out on the top floor? And who is the little girl who seems to be able to make people do things? Jack becomes amateur sleuth in order to unravel a mystery that will have you questioning your own morals and wondering about life and death.
An amazing book and expertly written by one of the finest writers around.
A slow start, which builds and picks up pace nicely. You find yourself asking questions and pondering over events.
The last third of the book is a white-knuckle ride of suspense and thrills and I could not put it down for long without slipping back into it again.
Marshall does answer any questions you had but also leaves an opening for what I hope will prompt a second book.
Lots of twists and turns, and another proverbial pearler from the imagination of a man on top of his game.
I'd love to tell you more about the plot and storyline but it really would spoil it for anyone who decides to read it. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good thriller.
Marshall is a brilliant, creative writer without being weighed down with heavily laden prose that has been churned out for literary effect or to show off his prowess as a scribe.
If you haven't read Michael Marshall, then you most definitely should do so. Why not start with 'The Intruders'.
Michael Marshall Bibliography
As Michael Marshall Smith
The Servants 
One of Us 
Only Forward 
As Michael Marshall
Bad Things 
The Intruders 
Blood of Angels 
The Lonely Dead (UK) / The Upright Man (US) 
The Straw Men 
The Servants 
In a recent interview Michael Marshall said he was in talks with the BBC about 'The Intruders' being turned into a drama series.
It would be great if this comes to fruition as it would make a really scary drama and the scope for such a project would be endless.
I found this book totally randomly. It was on the table at the library and I picked it up to flick through and ended up renting it out. I'd not heard of Michael Marshall before, I think he's a fairly new writer.
Outline of the story:
Jack Whalen is an ex police officer living with his wife Amy. Life is simple, Amy working for an adverstising company, and Jack trying to work on a book about crime, when an old school friend of Jacks comes into his life with an array of issues, asking for Jacks help. Jack turns him down, but when his wife Amy goes missing on a routing business trip, he heads to Seattle to look for her and ends up being pulled into his school friends problems and all is not as simple as he thought. When his wife starts acting like he never knew her, and secrets start spilling out, Jack tries to get a grip on what's happening and gets pulled into something dark and mysterious that neither he or the reader expects. .
I'm sorry if my review of the story seems a bit vague, but I don't want to give too much away because the book is full of unexpected twists and turns and mystery.
It's one of those books you have to keep reading, because all the time you're thinking 'what's going to happen next?'. I think Marshall did a fantastic job of keeping the reader hooked with twists in the plot and unexpected events. It really made me think, because it's a very realistic story, about myself and the people around me which I actually found a little frightening. It's a very tense thriller, and the storyline is so deep and interesting you can't stop reading.
I think this book is more frightening because it's easy to relate to it. It's just your average happy couple that are thrown into a different world almost, by things that they can't control and it left me thinking, 'could that happen?'. I know it sounds silly but that's just how the book made me feel.
Marshall does a very good job of building character profiles, so you feel like you know the character, things that happened in their past and what kind of person they are, and then you understand why they do the things they do in the book. It also makes you get attatched to certain characters and care about what happens to them, which I think is another great thing to do in a book, to make you want to carry on reading it.
The book is full of the characters thoughts and emotions which really pulls you in and makes you feel how the characters feel. I like this as it's more realistic and gives you a much better understanding. This is why I tend to prefer the written version of some films, i.e Stephen King's Misery, because I enjoy reading the personal thoughts and feelings of the characters.
I recently read another of Michael Marshall's books, Bad things. Marshall has a very distinct writing style, and you can see similarities between the characters and emotion of the different books, even though the storyline is totally different.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and I love a book that keeps you thinking even after you've put it down. The only downside to this for me, which some people may like, is the ending. It's left open and I don't tend to like books or films with loose endings at the end, I like to know what happened to everyone and properly finish the book, but he's left it to the reader I think. As I said, this is something some readers may like, but I find it a bit disappointing after a book that keeps you on edge throughout. Other than that, I can't fault it. It's full of emotion and you really get into it quickly. This book is available to buy on Amazon for around the £5 mark, or you can save the money and borrow it from the library.
Thanks for reading :)
The Intruders by Michael Marshall.
~ About the Author ~
I don't know much about this author, but I have found out he is English, lives in London and has written a number of different stories. He has also written some screenplays - including the BBC. Apparently film studios took up a couple of his stories, but I've no information about whether they were actually placed in to production.
~ Book Synopsis ~
To begin with we have the opening scenes of someone walking into a house, where a woman and her son are brutally murdered.
We then get taken to the world of Jack Whalen who is an ex LAPD cop, now turned writer. We see a little of his past life at school, and to begin with you're not entirely sure what this has to do with the present day.
We also get to know he is married, and his wife is now the main income earner since he had given up working to concentrate on writing. But you sense all is not well with Jack, and there is uncertainty as to why he left the police force.
His wife Amy has gone off on assignment as part of her job working for an advertising agency. Jack keeps wondering when she will call him, but is then surprised to get a call from someone using her mobile phone, but is relieved to find out this is a cab driver who found her phone in his cab.
But just as Jack's worry is diminished, he suddenly finds Amy isn't booked at the hotel he was expecting to find her at. Nor does she seem to be anywhere else he looks.
Suddenly his unease about her incommunicado escalates.
In the meantime, he gets a visit from someone in his past - Gary Fisher - who he was at school with. Jack finds the meeting strange since he and Gary rarely crossed paths, but it soon because apparent Gary was hoping Jack would take on a case for him, using his previous skills as a police officer, but Jack decides not to take it on, but before long he finds he is drawn towards the case anyway, whether he liked it or not.
Elsewhere, the same stranger who had killed the woman and her son previously approaches a young girl on a beach. Once he has approached her, she vanishes. Does this link in with Amy?
As Jack begins to look into his life more and that of Amy, suddenly he finds things he didn't expect and his life and that of those around him is in danger.
~ Thoughts on the book ~
First off, this is the one and only time I've read one of Michael Marshall's novels. I happened to be in Asda and spotted a buy 2 books for £3-00 deal, so picked this and another book I liked the sound of up.
So, while the blurb on the back did give me the impression of this being a crime/thriller type of novel, I was actually surprised to find it has more of Sci-Fi -supernatural angle to it - I would liken it to something you would find in an X-Files plot.
And this is my first complaint about the book, because it really wasn't what I was expecting. Now this doesn't mean it was particularly bad, but just that the book synopsis at the back or even in the front cover would be better served giving more of an idea of what direction this book is going to go.
My other reservation about the book is the style of writing. We go from the 3rd person narrative to first person (Jack's perspective). Now I know this works for some readers but personally I'm not a great fan of this kind of writing style. I just find it adds to you having to really concentrate on what is happening as you read, and when you have an already complicated story, it just adds another level of thought process I could really do without.
I also found myself suspending some belief towards the end as some answers were given, I also felt other questions weren't being answered. It was a good strong story, but for the very ending that I felt is weak and doesn't really do the whole novel justice.
But there are good redeeming points about the novel. First and foremost it does have good strong characters, and while I found myself annoyed in the plot as described above, until that point late on in the book, it was a good strong storyline, that as I began to piece it together was more intriguing, and I wanted to carry on reading to find out what had happened, and where the connections really were.
I actually feel a second reading would help me better understand it all, and I'm not completely adverse to the idea of picking it up again in the future and having another go. But I know I will still need to suspend belief at times, and I'm still not sure I want to read those areas all over again!
I guess if this supernatural/Sci-Fi/X-Files style of writing is your kind of thing, you will enjoy it far more. I love the X-Files and some supernatural and Sci-Fi writing, but I admit it's not really my genre so there are few writers who really do manage to grab my attention. Sadly this is one of the writers who haven't grabbed that attention.
~ Final thoughts ~
All in all, this isn't a badly written book, and I know some readers will enjoy it far more than I have. I want something that has more of a plausible thriller style to the writing than this gave me. I guess I feel this doesn't quite 'fit' the label of either thriller/crime novel, or Supernatural and Sci-Fi. It feels more like a mix of the two, and isn't distinct enough for either - and that's why I feel it falls down, because it has this lack of definition.
I also admit, I'm pleased it was part of the 2 for £3 deal; otherwise I would feel slightly cheated having paid more than I did for the book. As it is, I sense I will leave it a few weeks, give it another go and see how I get on. If my opinion doesn't change, it'll be freecycled or popped down to the local charity shop. So for now, it stays on the shelf, and I'm still not quite sure what to make of it!
So for now, 3 out of 5 stars. Good writing, but just disjointed along the way.
~ Availability ~
As I've said, I've picked this up at Asda, who currently have a small section of books for £2-00 each, or 2 books for £3-00. A quick look elsewhere does show it seems to be widely available with prices varying between £2-00 upwards.
Ex LAPD cop, Jack Whalen, is struggling to put together a companion piece to the book of crime scene photographs he's just written when an old school friend turns up out of the blue seeking his help on a law case. Jack turns him down but soon after discovers his wife has gone missing whilst on a routine business trip to Seattle.
Heading there with the intention of trying to locate her, Jack finds himself reluctantly getting drawn into his old school friend's problems despite himself when it turns out his wife is connected with a mysterious boarded up building that has to do with his friend's law case. A series of brutal slayings also has it's links and slowly Jack finds himself being pulled into something deeper and darker than he can hope to understand. The world he thinks he knows isn't as it seems and below the surface lies a secret that refuses to lay buried.....
Michael Marshall has been around for quite awhile now. Using the name of M.M.Smith, he was responsible for three best-selling sci-fi novels and a collection of short stories with a twist in their tail. His sci-fi novels included the glorious debut, GOING FORWARD, and the highly ground-breaking novel, SPARES; which dealt with the sensitive subject of cloning and foretold some of the dangers that scientific breakthrough might lead to in a similar but less subtle manner to Kasuro Ishiguro's NEVER LET ME GO.
Shortly after this is when he dropped the Smith and began a change in direction that saw him writing thrillers. His debut in this new incarnation was the highly successful THE STRAWMEN trilogy and this latest novel is his first stand-alone book since then.
Though it deals with similar themes to THE STRAWMEN, you get the feeling that this a darker world still to that created in anything else Marshall has yet written. The novel feels as though it is an attempt to amalgramate the two writing persona of Marshall and, in this, I personally think he is successful. THE INTRUDERS is a tense thriller with echoes of sci-fi and the paranormal thrown into the mix almost simply just to confuse the issue and take everything you think you know about where this is headed and turn it on it's head. Some people don't like the way the novel seems to twist about half-way through; me, I think it is very cleverly done!!
One thing I have noticed, and indeed noticed with THE STRAWMEN, is that Marshall's writing style as a thriller writer is very similar to that of John Connolly who writes the Charlie Parker novels. This said, I am a strong believer that if you like the slightly kooky feel to Connolly's novels and the way that much is left to your interrpretation then this will probably be right up your street.
Like a chilling episode of The Twilight Zone at it's best, this is a very scary novel that implies much and plays on your secret fears. It is not Marshall's best performance but is still a bloody good read that I challenge you to put down. The ending feels a little sudden and a lot is left in the air but this is only a little gripe. Apart from that, this is worth every penny I paid for it on my weekly shopping trip to Tesco where this was on offer at 2 paperback books for £7.
If you like something diffrent from your thrillers, pick this up and you hopefully won't be disappointed. If you like something more conventional then avoid this and pick up the latest bestselling-clone-of-a-thousand-other-thrillers. Lately there seems to be a postive slew of those. This is assuredly for those who like a slice of the surreal and unexplained with their pie.
And judging from the preview of his next novel, featured in the closing pages of this latest offering (but mysteriously so far untitled...?), it looks like Marshall's just getting started and his next book is also gonna be a doozy!!! Personally, judging from this, I can't wait....