Today is my stop on the HOUSE OF SPINES blog tour, and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to share my thoughts about this outstanding book.
Ranald McGhie is a financially-challenged writer who comes into an unexpected windfall when he inherits his Great-Uncle Alexander’s home—Newton Hall—and everything in it, including a vast library of books. Divorced and doing his best to cope with mental health issues that coincided with the death of his parents, Ranald is both overwhelmed and grateful for the chance to make a fresh start in his new home. But the moment he arrives, he gets a strange vibe from the house, particularly when he’s near the locked door of the lift. His dreams are filled with images of a mysterious woman who calls to him from within the mirror in the lift—a mirror he can’t see within the lift itself—but he knows it there, just as he knows she is there… waiting for him.
I love the spine-tingling chills caused by a creepy Gothic novel, and Malone provides them throughout with his masterful prose. I felt as uneasy as Ranald as he slowly explores different parts of the house, particularly the older areas with its old-fashioned furnishing that look frozen in time. As much as I wanted him to hurry up and investigate more rooms, it brought a delicious shudder to think about the secrets these rooms might hold and I was reluctant to end my speculations.
Ranald’s mental illness makes him an unreliable narrator at times, though I didn’t realize this right away. When I did, it made me wonder how much of what Ranald perceived as true events actually happened… and if they did, whether or not things happened as he thought that did. I loved the uncertainty this created within the story, and was keen to find clues that might indicate the reality (or not) of the given situation. Ranald isn’t the only unreliable character in the story, either… and that’s all I’ll say about that.
Glimpses of the past provide insight into what happened with Ranald’s parents, and in time, we learn about Alexander’s motivation in leaving Newton Hall to him. We also get to learn more about previous occupants of the house—which include Ranald’s mother and grandmother, among others—adding new layers to the mystery surrounding Newton Hall.
Other characters include the married housekeeper and gardener, Ranald’s cousins, his ex-wife and (slightly psychic) former neighbor, and select people from the nearby village. The crisp characterizations of each one was fantastic, and made an already great book that much better. I either loved them, or felt suspicious of them instantly, depending on which character it was—and I was fooled into complacency by more than one of them, thinking I had them all figured out. Nope! Not even close, regarding certain ones.
There aren’t enough adjectives in the dictionary to describe how much I loved the ending. It was absolutely NOT what I was expecting to happen at all! What a way to wrap up a book! It was pure perfection.
To put it simply, Michael J. Malone has found a brand new fan in me. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next, because HOUSE OF SPINES was an amazing read. If you haven’t read it yet, trust me when I say you should. You won’t be sorry!
I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Orenda Books.
About the Book
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…
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.