When I started reading The Intruders the first thing that struck me was the writing. Michael Marshall is talented and this book, his second, is one of the best books I have ever read. Not one of the best books I’ve read this year or in the past five; I mean ever. The writing is tight, and yet it flows so smoothly, giving you the picture perfectly. His characters are beyond three-dimensional, they are breathing. I took long lunches all week because I literally could not put this book down.
Jack Whalen is an ex-cop living in an idyllic little town with his wife Amy in Washington state. He seems lost right from the start, wondering if maybe he has it in him to be or do more. He had a book published almost a year ago and has been working on a new one except that there isn’t a new one. Then an old high school acquaintance, Gary Fisher, shows up out of the blue and confronts Jack with the story of two people who were murdered.
Gary is convinced that Jack can help him solve the mystery of what happened. Although Jack refuses to help him at first it becomes apparent that recent events in his personal life are somehow, in some inexplicable way, tied to these murders. His wife goes on a business trip and disappears only to resurface a few days later as if nothing has changed. Once again Gary approaches Jack with evidence that his wife is tied to the murders and Jack agrees to look into it.
Then Madison, a nine year old, girl goes missing from under her not-so-attentive mother‘s nose. She has blackouts and cannot remember how she came to be in a place all alone and so far away from the beach house she last remembered. It is as if something or someone inside of her is directing her, moving her forward toward a destination she knows nothing about.
When Jack finally begins to piece the bits and pieces together he starts to realize how large the picture is they belong to. Why were two people murdered for no apparent reason? What was Jack’s wife Amy doing if she wasn’t on business? Where is Madison going and why? Who are the intruders? These questions run through your mind as you hurtle towards an ending that will leave you stunned. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
The Intruders features some very lost and broken characters. Deep tragedy and sadness fill the dark corners of their minds and hearts, pasts that are complicated and slowly revealed layer by layer. They are multifaceted and completely human. Jack especially is someone I became attached to. The story pealed back to reveal more and you came to understand that the calm man in the first few chapters was really hiding someone else. In the end, though, it is about the people in your life and the things that bind you to them.
“People never really leave," one passage contends. "That’s the worst crime committed by those who go and those who die. They leave echoes of themselves behind, for the people who loved them to deal with for the rest of their lives.”