In this powerful new thriller, Michael J Malone returns to A Suitable Lie territory, movingly and perceptively addressing a shocking social issue. Chilling, perceptive and heartbreakingly emotive, In the Absence of Miracles is domestic noir at its most powerful, and a sensitively wrought portrait of a family whose shameful lies hide the very darkest of secrets.
John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home. Following a massive stroke, she’s unlikely to be able to live independently again. With no other option than to sell the family home, John sets about packing up everything in the house. In sifting through the detritus of his family’s past he’s forced to revisit, and revise his childhood.
In a box, in the attic, he finds undeniable truth that he had a brother who disappeared when he himself was only a toddler. A brother no one ever mentioned. A brother he knew absolutely nothing about. A discovery that sets John on a journey from which he may never recover. For sometimes in that space where memory should reside there is nothing but silence, smoke and ash.
And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer. And to violence…
I have heard so much praise for Michael J Malone, that I jumped on the chance to review this book for the blog tour. This is my first book of his but it certainly won’t be my last.
Michael has such a beautiful way of writing, you are instantly drawn into the fabric of the story. There is just enough detail to make everything clear and set the scene but not too much as to drown you in unnecessary information.
John is a really complex character. His life is falling apart around him, his mum has had a massive stroke. He drinks far too much, cannot maintain meaningful relationships and seems to have some foggy gaps in his memory. He’s a hard person to like, yet I found myself routing for him.
It’s clear from the outset that John is on a mission to find out about the brother he never knew existed. However, there are many twists and turns to this story. So much is revealed and I was on the edge of my seat so many times. John finds out more and more but does he really want to know?
It was painful at times to watch what was happening and what is revealed. John always seems to be one step behind everything. Apparently I was heard at several points gasping out loud. There was so much more to the story than I thought possible.
The interconnecting of the different characters involved was very cleverly done. This added to the overall intrigue of the story.
Points of View
I did initially find this book slightly hard to settle into. Every now again the point of view changed and it threw me out the story. I would say once I was past the first quarter I got to the ‘I cannot put this down’ stage.
For me personally, this was far more mystery than thriller. Every reveal was met with a new question. You were left wondering how is was all going to come together and whether the character’s would come out of it all in piece. There are two major twists that I did not see coming, they left me utterly stunned, I think gut wrenching would be a good description here.
This is a book that will stay with me for a long time. It is as shocking as it is heartbreaking, a proper page turner. I look forward to reading some of Michael’s other books.
My thanks to Anne for the invite onto the tour and the publishers for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes Carnegie’s Call; A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage; The Bad Samaritan and Dog Fight. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines and After He Died soon followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr.