Today it is my great pleasure to be joining the blog tour for the latest novel by Michael j Malone, After He Died. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours and publisher Orenda books for inviting me to join in and providing the book for review. I’ll be sharing my thoughts just as soon as we’ve seen what the book is about.
About the Book
You need to know who your husband really was…
When Paula Gadd’s husband of almost thirty years dies, just days away from the seventh anniversary of their son, Christopher’s death, her world falls apart. Grieving and bereft, she is stunned when a young woman approaches her at the funeral service, and slips something into her pocket. A note suggesting that Paula’s husband was not all that he seemed…
When the two women eventually meet, a series of revelations challenges everything Paula thought they knew, and it becomes immediately clear that both women’s lives are in very real danger.
Both a dark, twisty slice of domestic noir and taut, explosive psychological thriller, After He Died is also a chilling reminder that the people we trust the most can harbour the deadliest secrets…
I was very fortunate in that I got to hear the author reading a passage from this book on my recent visit to Bute Noir. Whilst it was only a glimpse of what was to come, it did remind me of the wonderful way in which Michael J Malone sculpts his prose, the depth of emotion they convey and how well they set tone and atmosphere within just a short space of time. It made me hungry to read more and thankfully I didn’t have to wait that long to do just that.
After He Died is the story of Paula Gadd, newly widowed having lived an almost perfect life so far. Perfect apart from the tragic loss of her son and now her husband. When she is approached by a strange young woman at her husband’s funeral, there is no way she can be prepared for what is to come and the secrets that are about to be revealed. With only her husband’s family to turn to, Paula is lost and, the more of the truth she uncovers, seemingly on a pathway into real danger.
It is really hard to convey what is so good about this book without giving away too much of the plot. Certainly the story is enriched by secrets and confessions which are slowly revealed to the reader. Certain aspects of Paula’s life are not as perfect as she had imagined, her beloved Thomas hiding things from her that she would not have been able to bear. Was it an affair or something more? Something worse … There is always that uncertainty in the back of your mind as to what the relevance of the ‘other woman’ is and how she fits into Paula and Thomas’ story, but when it is revealed it is definitely a surprise and not one I was expecting.
As I said earlier, the quality of the writing is superb. In just a few sentences in was transported into Paula’s world, the description of setting so clear and evocative that, ad I not already been fortunate enough to see how beautiful Ettrick Bay was for myself, I’d most definitely want to pay a visit there now. Bute Tourist Board should be very happy with this book, and I can attest to how lovely the bookshop and library that get the briefest of mentions in the book, are too. And then there is the atmosphere. As I was reading I always had a sense of the underlying tension, the unspoken secrets and the ominous nature of what was to come. The book feels solemn, as you would expect given that the main protagonist has just suffered a terrible bereavement, and Michael J Malone has captured that sense of loss and insecurity perfectly. He is adept at recreating emotion, of making it bleed from the page and this adds another level to this book. It draws you in and does not let you go. You are invested in the story and the characters from the start.
In terms of the characters, I found Paula a bit of a contradiction. There were so many ways in which she was strong and determined, and yet in an instant she could be vulnerable and insecure, uncertain even. She was crippled by loss and yet also motivated by finding out the truth. The more you learn of her, the more apparent it becomes who she is underneath the facade of simply being Thomas’ wife, and I grew to like her very quickly. Cara, the young woman who turns her world upside down, is also Paula’s exact opposite. She is fiery, focused and not to be messed with. Her determination and tunnel vision is understandable but also adds tension to the story. Her friendship with Paula shouldn’t work, they are the most unusual pairing, and yet it does and together they carry the story. You also have Thomas’s family, his brothers Father Joe and Bill, and Bill’s wife Daphne. You’ll need to make your own minds up about them, but they add their own elements to the story, and Joe I really liked, especially his relationship with Paula.
If you are looking for a fast paced, high action thriller then you won’t find it here. If you are looking for a beautifully written, atmospheric, tension filled slice of perfect domestic noir then this is your book. I love how this book quietly pulled me in and played with my sense of what I thought was real. I love how it makes me even more determined to go back to Bute (like that was in question). I love how Michael J Malone has constructed a complicated web of secrets and lies on which to build Paula’s life, only to carefully break each connection at its root and watch the web come tumbling down.
Does the story have a happy ending? Why not read it yourself and find out? It is available now from the following retailers in e-book (20th September in paperback):
About the Author
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 soon followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.
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