In The Absence Of Miracles by Michael J Malone Orenda Books September 19th 2019
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…
You definitely can’t chose your family and the decisions we make can haunt us for the rest of our lives. Malone’s novel explored the Doherty family, typical and seemingly ordinary, stay at home Mum, successful policeman Father, and two brothers Chris and John. Their mothers stroke acted as the catalyst for Malone to take his character, John on a rollercoaster ride of emotions as he forced him to confront issues long hidden, his own relationship with his family and those around him.
What was fascinating was Malone’s ability to somehow access those remote corners of John’s mind, to unfurl the harrowing and dark memories he had long hidden. As his investigation into his brothers disappearance progressed, as events became more intense and terrifying so did John’s recollections of that time. Malone didn’t shy away from the detail, nor did he sensationalise, glorify or slip into the stereotypical, as he surprised and shocked the reader.
It was the emotions and reactions of the characters that I admired, from the guilt, and disgust, to the cold, calculating use of the human as a mere commodity. Malone’s narrative was stark and bleak but infused with chinks of light and hope. He more than perfectly demonstrated the far reaching consequences of a persons choices, of the damage seemingly innocent actions can have both in the past and the present.
It was these aspects that made In The Absence Of Miracles so much more than a simple crime novel. Yes, it had all the tension and drama you would expect, but it went so much deeper, the human aspects the highlight, the cruelties of life visible, and the hope for a better future left you with an unending feeling of satisfaction of having read a first class novel.
I would like to thank Orenda Books for a copy of In The Absence Of Miracles to read and review and to Anne Cater Of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
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.
‘Vivid, visceral and compulsive’ Ian Rankin ‘Michael J Malone is a massive talent’ Luca Veste