Originally published: 19 September 2019
Author: Michael J Malone
Published by: Orenda Books
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Length: 300 pages
Reading dates: 14-16 September 2019
The story starts just after John’s mother has been taken into a nursing home following a massive stroke and is likely never to recover enough to live independently again. John is a secondary school teacher, living in Scotland, with a bit of a drinking problem and knows the only way to fund her future care is to sell her house.
Left to deal with arrangements by himself (his father is dead and his brother Chris lives in America) John goes to the house and sets about packing up before he gets the estate agents round. While in the attic, he finds a box with a single blood stained trainer and some photographs he has never seen before. When he finds a newspaper article about a missing 14 year old boy called Thomas, he realises this boy must be his brother. Just a toddler when this mystery brother vanished, he was presumed dead and was never mentioned by his parents to anyone.
Shocked by this discovery, he joins forces with his younger brother Chris who is back in the country to discover more about his disappearance. When John starts doing research in the local library (the old fashioned way using Microfilm!) he soon learns that several other teenage boys of a similar age went missing around the same time, and the common link between all the disappearances was that the local travelling fair was in town. This leads John to track down several people from the past including people who worked for the fair and also the detective who was in charge of investigating Thomas’s disappearance. His discoveries soon open a whole hornets nest of secrets!
I took this on the train with me at the weekend and the short snappy chapters made the journey go pretty fast! What I found fascinating was the study of how a traumatic event can be completely forgotten about – it almost seems unbelievable but dissociation (the ability to block trauma from the mind) is a real thing and I have gone away to read more about it! John has managed to block a truly horrific event from his mind but he us not unaffected by this – his inability to make a commitment to his girlfriend and his heavy drinking are just two behaviours that are caused by events he doesn’t even remember at the beginning of the book.
A disturbing subject, handled very well with great sensitivity. I loved reading about the relationship between the brothers – the complicated connections between siblings, how they can hate one another one minutes and be full of love and support the next! In the Absence of Miracles is full of lies, secrets and a shocking discovery which left me reeling. An engrossing and quick read, a fantastic psychological thriller!
Many thanks to Karen at Orenda for sending me an advance copy and to Anne Cater for inviting me on the blog tour. Be sure to checkout the other stops below…
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.