Well what can I say, as a long-standing fan (some may say stalker!) of Michael J Malone, you can imagine my delight when he and Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books contacted me and asked me to host a spot on his upcoming Blog Tour for “A Suitable Lie”…oh how I pondered over that one…NOT! My reply was pinging its way into their inbox before they could even draw breath!
It was no hardship at all to read this book for review, I had already purchased my copy at Michael’s pop up launch at Bloody Scotland last month and I couldn’t wait to get my teeth into it!
Some secrets should never be kept… Andy Boyd thinks he is the luckiest man alive. Widowed with a young child, after his wife dies in childbirth, he is certain that he will never again experience true love. Then he meets Anna. Feisty, fun and beautiful, she’s his perfect match … and she loves his son like he is her own. When Andy ends up in the hospital on his wedding night, he receives his first clue that Anna is not all that she seems. Desperate for that happy-ever-after, he ignores it. A dangerous mistake that could cost him everything. A brave, deeply moving, page-turning psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie marks a stunning departure for one of Scotland’s finest crime writers, exploring the lengths people will go to hide their deepest secrets, even if it kills them…
My Review: 5/5
To start off this book is off the scale on the star rating, it is worthy of way more than 5 stars as far as I am concerned (and other readers upon reading the reviews out there!) I kind of want to shout “OMG…EEEEEK” and all those other exclamations of delight but given the subject matter it doesn’t seem quite appropriate!
A Suitable Lie isn’t a wham bam thank you mam fast paced read and I wouldn’t expect it to be; rather it follows a somewhat measured but alarming pace drawing the reader right into Andy Boyd’s life. This is what makes it so chilling; the description of the domestic violence was both disturbing and unnerving and it served to pull the reader into the horrific reality that is domestic violence. Andy struggles to deal with his home and work life while maintaining a veneer of normality to the outside world. But Andy is not the abuser, Anna is…
The plot is based around an ordinary story of a man who has faced great tragedy in his life when his wife died in childbirth, Andy thinks he will never replace that true love until a chance meeting with Anna on a night out with his brother. He is hooked on her from the start as Anna both charms and mesmerises him; she also seems to adore his son, Pat which seals it for Andy despite the underlying reservations his mum appears to have.
While Andy falls head over heels in love with Anna there are also problems in the bank where he is the manager, money has gone missing and a blanket of suspicion falls over Andy and one of his closest colleagues. Andy also has concerns about Sheila who works alongside him as she often appears at work with bruises and injuries which she explains away with the excuse of “being a bit clumsy”. He thinks often about confiding in her but he cannot bring himself to admit to her what is happening to him, Andy feels that nobody will beleive him and that he would be met with ridicule.
The characters in A Suitable Lie are intriguing and complex; Andy is on the surface your stereotypical male, strong and taking on the role of protector and provider while his brother Jim is painted more of a typical “West of Scotland Male” – a bit of a player and the type to act first and think later but with a strong loyalty to his family; their mum is the classic mother figure, thinks the world of “her boys” and worries herself sick about them while playing a key role in their lives. Anna is probably the most complex character in the book, on the surface she is the loyal loving wife and mum but underneath lies a darkness and a rage that is out of all control when unleashed; I felt torn between feeling sorry for her vulnerability and despising her for the terror she inflicts upon the family.
Andy’s work colleagues also play a key role in the storyline as their attitudes and personality help shape what he discloses and who he trusts. We see Andy visibly shrink in stature as the book progresses and he becomes a shadow of himself.
The main themes of the book are domestic abuse, the social stereotypes attached to male victims of domestic abuse and secrets. From the beginning of the book we can see the stereotypes in play – there is an overwhelming empathy and understanding for Sheila as a victim of abuse by her husband, while Andy himself cannot help but feel unsympathetic when he overhears a drunk man telling the police that the bruises to his face were caused by his wife hitting him across the face with a handbag full of bricks – Andy admits that made him want to laugh, so how can he tell family and colleagues what is happening to him – “real men” don’t allow their women to hit them! Secrecy and lies play a big part in the book as Andy is determined to keep his experience hidden from others, the lies he is forced to tell Anna to try and lead some semblance of a normal life and also the secrets that Anna herself keeps hidden – all lead to the twists and turns that the book takes.
A Suitable Lie also highlights the impact that domestic abuse has on the children in the family and we can see the effect that it has on Pat, Andy’s son, as he struggles to come to terms with the humiliation and violence meted out to his father and his inner turmoil as he is torn between a loyalty to his dad, a fear of Anna and in his young mind an anger at his dad for allowing this to happen.
We also feel Andy’s sense of what is right and wrong when it comes to men defending themselves, he recognises that he could indeed defend himself but worries that by doing so he is likely to hurt Anna and he has been brought up to respect women. He is ashamed to tell anyone what is happening and so lies to cover up the reality until he can lie no longer and it comes out into the open.
Statistics show that one out of three victims of domestic abuse are males*; domestic abuse has no respect for class, gender, sexuality or ethnicity and this book highlighted the very real terror and fear that victims feel; the fear of derision, the fear of losing their children, their homes and their livelihoods and level of manipulation that abusers go to, to maintain their power over the person and how that manipulation in turn leaves the victim blaming themselves; the book also highlights the lack of support and understanding for male victims.
(*13.2% of men state they have been a victim of domestic abuse since they were 16 (27.1% women). For every three victims of domestic abuse, two will be female, one will be male. These figures are the equivalent of 2.2 million male victims and 4.5 million female victims. One in four women and one in six men suffer from domestic abuse in their lifetime. Mankind Initiative, Sept. 2016)
A Suitable Lie tore at my heart, my stomach churned and I actually felt as though I was living and breathing Andy’s life; I could feel every blow and the terror as each incident was recounted; I felt his humiliation and heard the threats whispered by Anna with every blow and nip and punch; I held my breath for him as Anna inflicted her reign of terror; I could sense the isolation and entrapment that he felt as he believed he had no way out and his frustrations as he struggled to get others to understand.I also struggled with my feelings of sympathy for Anna – would I feel the same if she had been a man beating his wife – this book raises so many questions and topics for discussion and it would be a brilliant choice for reading groups!
A Suitable Lie will wrench your heart, challenge your perceptions, turn you upside down, inside out and spit you out a mangled wreck at the other side. I defy any reader not to be sucked into this when they pick it up.
This book is definitely going to be in my #TopReads of 2016 and by the looks of things it is picking up an incredible following – if you are going to read just one book this year – then I’d say make it this one!
Michael Malone was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country, just a stone’s throw from the great man’s cottage in Ayr. Well, a stone thrown by a catapult, maybe.
He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. His career as a poet has also included a (very) brief stint as the Poet-In-Residence for an adult gift shop. Don’t ask.
BLOOD TEARS, his debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize (judge:Alex Gray) from the Scottish Association of Writers and when it was published he added a “J” to his name to differentiate it from the work of his talented U.S. namesake.
He can be found on twitter – @michaelJmalone1
Buy Michael’s Books: to buy A Suitable Lie or any of Michael’s books you can pop over to Amazon and get clicking – I promise you – you won’t be disappointed! Click the link below…