Sunday 10 July 2016

Reviewed: Intrusion by Mary McCluskey

TITLE: Intrusion
AUTHOR: Mary McCluskey


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A loving couple, grieving the loss of their son, finds their marriage in free fall when a beautiful, long-lost acquaintance inserts herself into their lives.

Kat and Scott Hamilton are dealing with the hardest of losses: the death of their only child. While Scott throws himself back into his law practice in Los Angeles, Kat is hesitant to rejoin the workplace and instead spends her days shell-shocked and confused, unable to focus.

When an unwelcome face from Kat’s past in England emerges—the beautiful and imposing Sarah Cherrington—Kat’s marriage is thrown into a tailspin. Now wealthy beyond anything she could have imagined as a girl, Sarah appears to have everything she could need or want. But Sarah has an agenda and she wants one more thing. Soon Kat and Scott are caught up in her devious games and power plays.

Against the backdrops of Southern California and Sussex, in spare and haunting prose, Mary McCluskey propels this domestic drama to its chilling conclusion.

Intrusion is an unflinching portrayal of grief and the fragility of a couple suffering after the death of their teenage son. Both Kat and Scott are grieving after Christopher dies. Whilst grief effects them both differently, they are both exposed to vulnerability, and it makes for unsettling reading as Sarah, a friend from Kat’s past, manipulates her way in between the two of them and tears at the seams of their marriage.

The author’s writing was honest when it came to grief and anyone who is or has been grieving could likely relate to some of the ways both Kat and Scott are feeling. Kat is very isolated and lonely since Chris died. The people she knew before hold too much sympathy and pity towards her and the new people she meets ask too many questions, and she’s not sure how to handle any questions about being a mother. Scott deals with his grief in the opposite way, throwing himself into his work rather than hiding away. He sees less and less of Kat because of this, but sometimes his brave face façade falters and you can see how grief cripples him too.

I felt like the author really realistically identifies grief and its many forms and traits, almost psychologically analysing a person who is grieving and the many ways they can be taken advantage of from people with ulterior motives, who see the overwhelming sadness and vulnerability of others as an easy way to sink their claws in and turn things in their favour. I found Intrusion uncomfortable to read and I think a lot of that is down to the author creating a sadly believable character in Sarah who despite putting on an understanding and caring front, could manipulate and control with the best of them.

The suspense in this book was huge, and little hints are weaved into the plot which give you an idea of where things are going to go. I felt less like a reader and more like a part of the characters’ lives as the book went on. I could feel the crippling tension that came with the threat Sarah possessed, wondering what she was plotting, if anything, and how things wound unfold. Whilst the story was a fascinating one, as I kept on reading I was I suppose waiting for something to really hook me in – to grip me or surprise me or shock me – and for the most part, I didn’t really feel that happened.

Though the ending was satisfyingly fitting for the rest of the novel, I felt Intrusion was lacking that edge to it. The theme and layers of this novel were dark, but the actions of the characters could have been darker. I appreciate the way the author wrote this book as a psychological drama, which built up in tension in the lead-up to the conclusion, but I would have loved the lead up to the explosive end to have been a bit more exciting. The unease and unsettling nature of the story is nailed perfectly, but I would have liked more to have happened.

Regardless of anything else, however, the ending to Intrusion is one I am not likely to forget, very powerful and right for the story. The author does her characters justice and as it’s easy to become invested in their lives, I knew how I wanted things to turn out for them and Mary McCluskey delivers.

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