Today it is my great pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour for the latest novel from Michael J, Malone, In The Absence of Miracles. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to join the tour. I love reading Michael’s books so this was a real treat for me that I devoured in no time at all. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
A young man discovers a family secret that turns his world upside down in this dark, emotive, shocking psychological thriller by number-one bestselling author Michael J. MaloneAvailable from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Playstore | Apple Books
John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home following a massive stroke and 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.
For 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.
Shocking, chilling 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.
Ever since I first read A Suitable Lie I have been aware of the way in which Michael J Malone is capable of manipulating his readers. The emotional depth that his stories can convey and the almost lyrical quality of his writing. He is adept at taking hard subjects and making them accessible, never once glamourising or sensationalising the topic, but always leaving you feeling kind of spent, almost raw, after reading.
This is most definitely how I would describe the feeling I got after reading In The Absence of Miracles, a book which is as much a study of mental health and the emotional barriers we erect up to protect ourselves in times of great stress, as it is a mystery or thriller. That is one of the author’s greatest strengths really – finding the emotional heart of the story and making sure that the reader feels it with every single turn of the page.
The story starts in a rather unassuming way with protagonist, John Docherty, being faced with the prospect of clearing the family home when his mother is taken ill following a massive stroke. It is a hard moment in any child’s life, watching a loved one move beyond the point at which you can help them, admitting that they need more care than you can provide, and John struggles with the whole idea as many often do. But it is only as he starts to look through old boxes of memories that John starts to realise why his relationship with his mother is quite restrained. He uncovers quite the family secret, and no matter who he turns to, he finds himself stymied as he tries to find his way to the truth.
I don’t want to say much more about the story than that. The blurb really tells you all you need to know. The lion’s share of the story surrounds the efforts of John and his younger brother Chris to discover the truth behind a photograph that John finds amongst his mother’s effects. With a narrative that follows the present and also delves into a past that does not want to be retold, we are taken on an undulating, sometimes surprising, often difficult to read about journey which forces John to confront memories that he would rather had remained buried.
I must admit, parts of this story are difficult to read, and they will likely make you a little uncomfortable. They should make you uncomfortable as it is a very taboo subject that is being addressed. It is not an easy tale to tell, but one which is sadly all too realistic. As I mentioned earlier, the author walks a very fine line when conveying the difficult truths of this story, but never once crosses it, Here, the implied is as powerful and heartbreaking as any graphic description could ever be. And the toll that the devastating truth has on John and his family is sympathetically and realistically drawn.
As a reader you may well recognise in John’s behaviour a pattern that alerts you on some level of what has happened, even if you don’t fully realise the extent of what came before. It makes it a very absorbing and compelling read and I found myself wanting to know what had happened. I needed to understand what was behind John’s self destructive tendencies, his reluctance to commit and the ease with which he lets both himself, and those he loves, down. John is a character who will both delight and infuriate you. On one hand, he can be caring, perhaps never knowing fully why just acting by instinct, and yet maddeningly obtuse when it comes to his personal relationships and a reliance upon alcohol as a crutch.
All in all this is a very emotional and devastating read. As the story nears its conclusion, you will find your feelings being tossed around like a tennis ball in a tumble dryer. Maybe you’ll even feel a little bruised when the story ends, mentally drained from the journeying to the emotional precipice that the author leads you to. Above all, I know I felt richer for having read it. Another brilliant read.
So yes. I’m giving it one of these – the Red Hot Read awards.
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 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.
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