When I get offered the chance to take part in an #Orenda #BlogTour then I am always buzzing with anticipation and when it is a book from one of my favourite Scottish authors then the excitement levels shoot through the roof! So I am delighted to be a part of the #BlogTour for Michael L Malone’s latest book from Orenda, #HouseOfSpines. A huge thank you to Anne and Karen for inviting me on to the tour and of course to Michael for writing such damn good books!
What the blurb says:
Ran McGhie’s world has been turned upside down. A young, lonely and frustrated writer, and suffering from mental-health problems, he discovers that his long-dead mother was related to one of Glasgow’s oldest merchant families. Not only that, but Ran has inherited Newton Hall, a vast mansion that belonged to his great-uncle, who appears to have been watching from afar as his estranged great-nephew has grown up. Entering his new-found home, he finds that Great-Uncle Fitzpatrick has turned it into a temple to the written word – the perfect place for poet Ran. But everything is not as it seems. As he explores the Hall’s endless corridors, Ran’s grasp on reality appears to be loosening. And then he comes across an ancient lift, and in that lift a mirror. And in the mirror… the reflection of a woman… A terrifying psychological thriller with more than a hint of the Gothic, House of Spines is a love letter to the power of books, and an exploration of how lust and betrayal can be deadly…
I’m going to start off by just drooling with praise over the cover for this book! It just hints at the gothic mystery contained within with that antique green and classic lift dial gives you a small flavour of what is to come!
Ran McGhie’s luck has changed, or has it? He has been struggling with his mental health following the death of his parents as a young man; his marriage is over; he is in financial straits and his dreams of becoming a writer seem to be dead in the water when he finds out that his mother was actually related to one of Glasgow’s wealthiest merchant families. His great-uncle has passed away and left a mansion in the wealthy suburbs to Ran. Great, you think, he’s got it made! But Ran soon finds out that all is not as it seems and his world and his life are soon about to unravel as the House of Spines envelops him in a dark and disturbing story. He is caught up in a nightmare as he unwittingly uncovers the truth that lies behind the family name.
House of Spines is different to Michael J Malone’s usual crime fiction, it isn’t a fast paced criminal read, rather it is a psychological thriller wrapped in a disturbing gothic mystery and from the outset, I was hooked! A chilling and eerie prologue sets the scene for what promises to be a perturbing read! I’m not going to lie, my wee heart was having palpitations reading this and I had to sleep with the lights on and definitely considered covering up my mirrors! It was a brilliant exploration of dysfunctional families; dark and secret pasts with lies and lust that span the lifetime of a family and continue to cause havoc long after the perpetrators are gone.
Such is the atmospheric description in House of Spines, I could almost feel the ghosts creeping out of the pages and watching me; the voices whispering in my ears as I lost myself in Newton House. Michael J Malone has painted the perfect picture of a home steeped so deep in history that the reader cannot help but be transported there to experience it for themselves. As I read I could feel the gravel crunch beneath my feet in the driveway; the spines of each and every book underneath my fingertips as I settled down in the library to read.
The sense of place was spot on. Set in Bearsden (a small town just next to where I live) Michael captured the very essence of the affluent suburb and the suspicion that falls upon newcomers and especially those with a family history as dark as Ran’s. I could almost see him in the coffee shop at the cross and his interactions with the characters who crossed his path.
Ran is clearly suffering from mental health problems and this was an excellent portrayal of a man whose mind is in turmoil; the tension created as he careered between lucidity and insanity was palpable and I was taken on every step as he slowly lost grip on reality. Such was the effect of his mental state and his interactions with others in the book, that it became difficult to ascertain what was real and what was the state of his mind and so as a reader, I was left with a cast of deliciously unreliable narrators which made for a perfectly disturbing read!
House of Spines crawled inside of my head, excellent character portrayal and sense of place left me spooked, haunted and desperately sad at times as the real truth is slowly revealed layer by layer. A satisfyingly, chillingly, haunting and delightfully disturbing read, don’t miss it!
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
House of Spines is available for purchase: