Today it is my great pleasure to share my thoughts on the latest psychological thriller from Michael J. Malone, A Song Of Isolation. I love reading books by this author as you are guaranteed something different each time, but ultimately something topical, emotional and which will get right under your skin. This is no exception. With thanks to Orenda Books for my advance copy and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to join the tour, here’s what the book is all about.
About the Book
Film star Amelie Hart is the darling of the silver screen, appearing on the front pages of every newspaper. But at the peak of her fame she throws it all away for a regular guy with an ordinary job. The gossip columns are aghast: what happened to the woman who turned heads wherever she went?
Any hope the furore will die down are crushed when Amelie’s boyfriend Dave is arrested on charges of child sexual abuse. Dave strongly asserts his innocence, and when Amelie refuses to denounce him, the press witch hunt quickly turns into physical violence, and she has to flee the country.
While Dave is locked up with the most depraved men in the country and Amelie is hiding on the continent, Damaris, the victim at the centre of the story, is isolated – a child trying to make sense of an adult world.
Breathtakingly brutal, dark and immensely moving, A Song of Isolation looks beneath the magpie glimmer of celebrity to uncover a sinister world dominated by greed and lies, and the unfathomable destruction of innocent lives … in an instant.
Gah. This book. If you want an example of an author who, quite frequently, manages to write a book so full of emotion – both good and bad – and is able to create something that really gets under my skin and makes me feel a really visceral reaction to their writing, then you could do worse than to take a long hard look at Mr michael J Malone. Whether you are looking for a book that brings you to tears, or one that makes you want to slap your kindle, as in the case of this latest offering, then this is the guy you want.
From an opening scene that is both tense and unnerving at yet at a seeming partial disconnect with the heart of the story, by picking up A Song of Isolation you are committing to one hell of a roller coaster of a read that will see you have both highs and lows and a whole myriad of emotions from shock to anger and ultimately to sympathy and empathy. This is the story of Dave, Amelie and Damaris, three people who are thrown into the midst of a dark, disturbing and ultimately, anger inducing tale. The opening scene, as I say, seemingly disconnected from the vast majority of the novel, does at least start to set the scene as to why Amelie, a former movie sweetheart, is now living in relative isolation in Scotland having shunned fame in favour of a simple life with Dave. Dave, the man who is at the centre of what is about to happen – who stands accused of a crime so heinous that it is almost unconscionable that as a reader you could feel anything other than disgust or anger towards him, even though, at the start, we know little of him. For Dave soon stands accused of sexually molesting his and Amelie’s eleven year old neighbour, Damaris.
And yet … Michael J Malone sets the scene up so perfectly that from the very start you feel like something is very off about this whole premise, this whole accusation. Now it is certainly not unheard of for the accused to protest their innocence. There are few who would do otherwise in this situation. It is also not unheard of for abuse to happen right in front of the eyes of a loved one and for them to remain oblivious or to turn a blind eye. But there is just something about the way in which the author sets up this whole situation that makes the whole thing feel … staged. That leaves you a little uncertain as to what is fact and what fiction. But from the outset I found myself one the side of Dave, even though I couldn;t immediately put my finger on why. And due to this fact the book poses some very important questions, ones which play into the concept of guilt and innocence that is played out on a daily basis in modern life. The court of public opinion which is prevalent these days, and often quite vicious, magnified through the sphere of social media. Add in the celebrity link of a one time movie star and the salacious nature of this particular case is amplified a thousand times, making both accused and accuser, and their families, public property.
This was such an intriguing read. Amelie is a character who I did warm to, even though she is guarded, and as you read the book is becomes more and more understandable why, and why she has turned her back on fame. Not that this helps her or Dave in the long run. I like the way in which her character is developed, how we slowly learn more about her and the way in which the author has challenged her emotions, her reaction to what happens and how she puts herself back together in the aftermath. Because as much as this is Dave’s plight, there is a backstory that belongs wholly to Amelie, one that is believable and full of its own selection of shocks and surprises. Damaris is someone who it takes time to understand although I can feel nothing but sympathy for her, but not for the reasons you may suspect. She is only a child after all, damaged and changed by circumstance, but drawn so brilliantly that despite everything you think you should feel, you will still be surprised by her.
Dave is perhaps the most troubling character of all, and I say this because of my reaction to him. I trusted him from the start, no matter the allegations against him, despite not knowing if they were true or not. It is testament to the author’s skill that he was able to create that trust so quickly in spite of dropping in overwhelming evidence against Dave from almost the moment we met him. To not have some kind of sympathy toward him would have made this a very hard story to read. Yet it is his story that made me the most angry, provoked the most visceral feelings as I read the book, and the reason I remained glued to it to the very last page.
This is such a complex story, one that makes you question your own thought processes when faced with a high profile case in which such allegations of abuse arise. Do you believe the accused or the accuser. What if the accused is connected to a high profile name – are they also guilty by association? Is it right that the media should name someone before a charge is even brought given the propensity of the world at large to think it appropriate to levy threats of death and the like to those who are connected to them, simply because they can? It certainly made me think about how I behave when I hear reports on the news, how quick I may be to judgement without hearing the whole facts of what has truly come to pass. It also makes you think about why a victim may find things so hard to report, about manipulation, coercion and the very nature of abuse.
This is yet another novel which makes you think long and hard about your perception of certain situations, and that challenges what you think you know, whilst enveloping up a very real and very believable story in layer upon layer of mystery, tension and emotion. Definitely highly recommended. And I’m gonna give it one of these too:
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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