by Terry Tyler
In 2024, a mystery virus ravages the entire world. ‘Bat Fever’ is highly contagious and a hundred per cent lethal.
A cottage tucked away in an isolated Norfolk village seems like the ideal place to sit out a catastrophic pandemic, but some residents of Hincham resent the arrival of Jack, Sarah and their friends, while others want to know too much about them.
What the villagers don’t know is that beneath Sarah’s cottage is a fully-stocked, luxury survival bunker. A post-apocalyptic ‘des res’.
Hincham isolates itself from the rest of the country, but the deaths continue―and not from the virus. There’s a killer on the loose, but is it a member of the much-depleted community, or someone from outside? As the body count rises, paranoia sets in; friend suspects friend, and everyone suspects the newcomers.
Most terrifying of all is that no one knows who’s next on the list…
The Visitor is Terry Tyler’s twenty-second Amazon publication, and is set in the same world as her Project Renova series, while being a completely separate, stand-alone novel.
I realise reading about a deadly virus during a global pandemic might not be everyone’s cup of tea but it certainly gives perspective. The 2024 virus in The Visitor has basically said to Covid-19, “Hold my beer”, which is as good a reason as any to read on. I mean did any of us believe a year ago that we’d be in the position we are today? Of course not! So, with that in mind – and knowing there’s a vaccine on its way – I’m putting dystopian fiction back in the bottle.
Let’s set the scene: it’s 2024 and life after Covid-19 has returned to some degree of normality since 2020, but the term ‘pandemic’ returns to the world’s vocabulary when a new virus strikes, and this time it’s much more deadly. This time, the virus kills everyone who gets it; there’s no recovery. People die in droves and the authorities cannot cope. Bodies are bagged up and left in the streets for disposal, hospitals are attacked by vaccine-hunters, and the army is on the streets to reinforce some sort of order. But for how long?
There are four initial main characters: Jack, Sarah, Rexy & Daisy, friends since their university days when they shared a house. Still in touch, they reunite to visit the house in Hincham left to Sarah by her Uncle Jerry. On finding its hidden bunker with stocks and supplies of everything imaginable, they joke about meeting up again should there ever be another pandemic. Words that come back to haunt them.
However, each has moved on in life, so when the virus hits, they are not all able to flee for the safety of the bunker. In fact, two of them do not survive, but instead their loved ones turn up at the house in their place. I really enjoyed this part of the story, seeing their individual stories develop before they make their way to the village of Hincham.
Not everyone is pleased to see them, and it takes a while for them to be accepted by the villagers. So, it comes as no surprise that when a villager is found murdered, fingers are immediately pointed at the new arrivals.
They need to prove their worth if they are to avoid further criticism, and keep their secret bunker secret. The four characters have very differing views on how to respond to the villagers’ accusations – from sharing out their stocks to appease them, to not giving a damn about what is said about them. The story is told through their different viewpoints, interspersed with chapters by The Visitor, so the readers get unfettered access to their innermost thoughts. But, don’t even think that the identity of The Visitor is going to be revealed through these thoughts, because …well, it’s a mystery, and such a thing ain’t gonna happen. (Don’t ask me why I went all American-movie there, it just felt right 😉 – maybe it’s a prediction that this should be dramatised)
More deaths occur, the vitriol towards them ebbs and flows, but the anti-newcomer vibe is strong for a long time despite them doing their level best to integrate and be helpful. Just when you think there’s a pattern that could lead to revealing the killer, The Visitor mixes things up again. When even the army turn them down after they ask for help to find the killer, there seems to be little anyone can do except to hope the killer has moved on – which, of course, is pie in the sky.
However, as time goes on, it transpires someone is close to the truth. The killer’s time in the village is short lived and fleeing is the only option. For me, this is where the story began to drag a little as the killer’s story is told, and the reason for each of the murders is explained. I appreciate the reader needed to understand how The Visitor came to be, but it did feel a tad drawn out to me (it’s a long book). However, it’s worth hanging on in there, because someone is out to find the killer and make The Visitor face those back in Hincham. Unfortunately, the killer is still ahead of the game and the final twist is sublime, and leaves the door open for a sequel.
As a murder-mystery, this book is a very satisfying read. At times, I felt convinced I knew who the killer was, then there’d be a sharp twist that threw my suspicions off course. The post-apocalyptic setting is both fascinating and terrifying especially given the current climate. Multi-layered characters with complex personalities make you believe one thing and then another: it’s a complete roller-coaster ride to the big reveal, only to be topped by such a perfectly devious ending.
Highly recommended to readers who enjoy a thought-provoking murder-mystery. I received an ebook copy via Reads & Reels to read in exchange for an honest review.