Book Title: House Of Spines
Author: Michael J Malone
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Genres: Crime Fiction, Mystery, Gothic
Pub Date: 08/16/17
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…
It is a pleasure to be reviewing another book by Michael J Malone. Last year I read my first book from him, A Suitable Lie, and found it well worth the fuss, so I knew I was in for a treat reading this one. I immediately began drooling upon the cover reveal for House Of Spines and I can attest that the contents inside are just as spectacular as the cover that graces the front. I’m a sucker for a story that is tied together nicely on all ends; here we have a plot where the elevator plays a huge role in the goings on, but the reader doesn’t find out to what extent until nearly the end of the book. If you enjoy gothic novels with a contemporary flair and a dark, almost romantic undertone, keep on reading; this may be the book for you.
I was a bit shocked and wholly pleased to see the author was taking us in a completely different direction from his previous novel when House Of Spines was first announced; this typically works to one extreme for the author, meaning it has the potential to be a huge success or a major flop. My tummy was a bit nervous until I actually began reading; I knew from the slow building suspense and the exquisite language that I had nothing to fear. I’m always intrigued by majorly flawed protagonists; throw in a myriad of complicated mental health issues and you’ve won me over. While the story is sensational and, obviously, not realistic, it didn’t feel over-the-top in terms of needless drama. There was an understated, unsettling sense that haunted me for the first half of the book which made the story even more vivid, in my opinion, and this was the hook for me. Afterward, things begin to move quickly and we see twist after turn, some of which made me feel so very sorry for poor Ran.
This story had a mixture of pacing which kept me intrigued; it was a nice balance of smooth, subtle, and savory without feeling the story was stalling out. The ending will be hit or miss with readers based on personal preference; I loved it as I don’t like everything tied up in a neat little bow. We do receive answers, but a few pieces are left up to our own imagination and we get to come to our own conclusions. Intelligent and intriguing, my only minor complaint is that I didn’t want it to end! It seems the author’s previous book was considerably longer, so maybe it was just me in feeling like I could have read more about these delightfully despicable characters. Highly recommended to fans of gothic crime novels; if you are looking to mix up things by reading something with a contemporary setting, please give this one a go! Another highly entertaining story from an immensely talented author; I know I’ll be waiting on pins and needles for his next work.
*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy; it was a pleasure to provide my honest thoughts here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who 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. 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. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize (judge: Alex Gray) from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call (a non-fiction work about successful modern-day Scots); A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage and The Bad Samaritan. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number one bestseller. Michael is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website http://www.crimesquad.com. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.