In the Absence of Miracles
By Michael J. Malone
Rated: 5 stars*****
I am delighted to be invited to take part in the blog tour to review the book Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone. It is with thanks for being supplied with an early proof copy of the book so that I could write a review.
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.
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.
Michael J. Malone has accomplished an excellent book full of intrigue and brilliant writing and story-telling. This is a book that I did not want to put down from beginning to end. There are deep issues raised within this book that are handled so well.
Set around Glasgow, with mentions of Stirling and Edinburgh, Absence of Miracles is an emotive book that drew me in with its increasing intrigue. The chapters are short and quick. The book grabbed me and didn’t let go. There’s intrigue by what is in the photos in the attic. Mostly harmless and innocent, but then there’s one with the possibility of old, dried blood. Readers later learn too that there was a brother called Thomas who vanished. How this is written would make any reader want to read more to find out more about this character and what really happened.
Right from the beginning as it deals with the ever-increasing social issue of care homes and how hard it is when visiting a loved one really is as demonstrated through John’s character as he visits his mother – Donna, who has had a stroke at only 60 years old. The book is fiction, but that never knowing quite what to expect and the shock of deterioration is very real. Through John, the very real issue of having to sell the house just to pay and cover the cost is brought to the fore. Anyone who has been through this will be able to relate how John must be feeling. I can honestly say, it isn’t a good feeling.
The book itself is set in Glasgow and hits upon some well-known places such as The Mitchell Library, where John goes to research the disappearance of his brother. I like the realism and finer details of this and how he gets slightly distracted by other articles he sees too. Readers, even those who don’t know the streets of Glasgow that are mentioned will probably get to know the city a bit through reading this book.
The intrigue and tension cranks up a notch when it is discovered others, besides John’s brother went missing too.
Secrets start to unravel the further and deeper John digs into what happened all those years ago and to seek the truth about what happened.
The story takes readers north to Perth as John does some investigative work into Mr Marinello’s shows (What us Scots call funfairs, as nicely explained in the book). As I read further I got more and more interested in what happened there or indeed if anything linked up at all.
Readers are then pulled into the darkest of secrets that even I didn’t see coming. As readers looking in, it is soon learnt what the consequences are and the after effects are of the secrets as more and more comes to light. I felt all that was written, even the most shocking of secrets were handled well and weren’t there for any sensationalism, but really fit the story and adds to the complexities of the characters and plot as a whole, in what is an emotive and vivid book to read.
It’s a gripping domestic noir and one that made for very compulsive reading. I highly recommend Michael J. Malone and I also hope I get the privilege of reading more of his books.