Wednesday 18 September 2019

In The Absence of Miracles by Michael J Malone @MichaelJMalone1 BLOG TOUR @OrendaBooks #InTheAbsenceOfMiracles

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. 

In The Absence of Miracles by Michael J Malone is published in paperback on 19 September by Orenda Books. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review for this Blog Tour.

John Docherty is a middle-aged schoolteacher who appears to have the weight of the world on his shoulders.
His mother has recently suffered a devastating stroke, and whilst she is a relatively young woman, it’s clear that she will no longer be able to live at home.

John has the job of sorting through her house, ready to sell it, to fund her long-term care. John’s younger brother Chris is no support, having moved overseas long ago and rarely returned for visits; he didn’t even return after the death of their father some years earlier.

John’s girlfriend Angela does her best to support him, but John’s not an easy character; he drinks too much, he’s antagonistic and despite the fact that he does truly love Angela, his actions push her away.

John’s one friend ; Peter, becomes his support. Friends since boyhood, they’ve a colourful shared history and Peter proves to be unfailing in his friendship. When Chris does finally show his face; the brothers seem to continue their often violent relationship.

John’s parents were private people; his father worked long hours as a police officer and parenting was left mainly to his mother. He remembers her as vibrant, young looking, with a great dress sense and always full of fun. He’s startled when Peter tells him that his mother was the object of their teenaged friends lust.

John makes a startling and life-changing discovery as he sorts through his parents possession. A photograph of two young boys … labelled on the back ‘The Boys’ … yet this is not John and Chris. No, the older boy is a stranger to John … he’s been kept a secret from the brothers for all of their lives.

It seems that they had an older brother; Thomas. 

Thomas disappeared one day when he was fifteen years old and was never seen again.

This discovery turns John’s life completely inside-out, and the reader accompanies him and Chris as they do everything they can to find out what happened to their brother, and why their parents kept it all so secret.

Michael J Malone deals with some of the darkest, most taboo subjects within the pages of this novel. I don’t think I can remember any other story that deals with one of the subjects; it is shocking and heart breaking to read, yet it is done so beautifully, with sensitivity and an incredible insight into human nature that one is compelled to continue to read, and read, and read.

Whilst none of us are unaware of the horrors that humans can inflict upon others, the singling out of those young people who are particularly vulnerable throughout this tale is upsetting, yet sadly reflective of our society. When someone is struggling so much to deal with what life has thrown at them, it's so easy for vultures to swoop; to offer an alternative that appears so much better, yet when reality strikes, it is often going to be far far worse than their current situation.

One of the things that I admired most about this story is the author’s ability to detail the male relationship. Be it a romantic entanglement,  the sibling rivalry and love, or the constant and unstinting friendship between two men. Then there is the relationship between John and his mother; probably the most complex and chilling of all of his connections.

Like many of us, John's character alters depending on who he is with at the time, and I was so impressed by how the author portrayed him as part of a relationship. 

John also undergoes a  eye-opening and often traumatic relationship with himself; finally opening his memory to events from the past that have marked him and shaped him as an adult. This is a difficult and emotional journey for John, and can be breath-taking for the reader too. 

I am totally and completely in awe of Michael J Malone. This story tore at my heart, it actually felt painful to read some of it and it’s only the magnificently structured plot and wonderfully created characters that made me continue at times.

In the Absence of Miracles is a story that touches the heart and will leave a long-lasting scar upon it.

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.
He is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website 

He can be found on twitter - @michaelJmalone1

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