Disturbance is the 2019 domestic thriller by author Marianne Kavanagh.
Dark, desolate and distressing, Disturbance ranks as one of our top reads of the year.
Former Deputy Editor of Marie Claire and newspaper columnist Marianne Kavanagh celebrated her launch day for the Disturbance hardback as a guest in our webinar room. Marianne told us her novel writing career commenced within contemporary women’s fiction. Now published with Hodder & Stoughton, her place on the thriller chart is firmly established too.
Disturbance, Marianne’s latest novel, out now in paperback, rumbles through tranquil village life where even the grandest house quivers with tension.
‘At home, behind the high hedges, they were safe.’
Sara lives in a large Georgian house with her husband, Mike, and their two sons, one of whom is autistic, craving routine, and resisting anything unexpected. Yet hidden away from the tight “circle of indignation” within the village, Sara’s life is anything but grand.
‘The moment of crisis arrived with no fanfare, no warning, on an ordinary working day.’
Enter Katie, a friendly student who offers to walk the family dog, Bundle, on a regular basis. At first, Sara is wary but could do with a break from Bundle’s demented barking which permeates the quiet cul-de-sac. An unlikely friendship is born and it is not long before Katie is hanging on Sara’s every word. In turn, Sara seems to relish the advice she can impart to this almost younger version of herself.
‘They often talked like this, each of them apologising to the other, like people arguing over who should go through the door first.’
Katie offers much-needed respite in Sara’s world. It is through Katie’s openness and honesty that we realise we know very little about Sara at the outset – even her surname Parsons is cleverly omitted from the plot until the story is well underway. Conversations they have are often written in retrospective narrative, not dialogue and allow each a chance to reflect. Sara, in particular, casts some light on the shadows of her marriage which cling to the walls. Despite Katie witnessing Mike’s savage outbursts and his scoffing at anything Sara and her sons set out to achieve, Sara encourages her to believe that beneath it all Mike is a sensitive, caring husband and father.
His demands – the yelling at a misplaced item, the throwing of crockery, the scalding of others with bowls of hot soup – contrast with the mundanity of Sara’s daily chores, “the work never-ending, the job never done”. Yet these tasks paper thinly over sinister undercurrents – control, emotional abuse, anxiety, and the difficulties of living with someone who is never really in the present moment.
‘In the end, as is always the way, a random event changed everything.’
Just as a family celebration is due to get underway an incident occurs which changes the course of proceedings forever.
Why does Sara tolerate Mike’s increasingly volatile behaviour? What hold does he have over her? And just what painful memories can a long forgotten relative dredge up which some would rather remain unearthed?
The chapterless scene changes, Marianne told us, was an obvious way to write it as she saw the separate scenes distinctively in her head. This approach makes the slow burn of Disturbance a treat to devour. The understated tone throughout is like the darkest of chocolate; entirely addictive, the intensity increasing as it melts, leaving you with an aftertaste that lingers long after the last bite.
We highly recommend.