- Book: In the Absence of Miracles
- Location: Glasgow
- Author: Michael J Malone
In this novel once again Michael J Malone demonstrates the profound ripple effect of secrets in the family, how they permeate the conscious make-up of family members at very deep levels and through into succeeding generations. He is adept at choosing a slant that is often just a little different and he is keen to show that victims come from all walks of life and from both sexes.
John Docherty’s mother has recently been admitted to a nursing home and it is time for him to sort through her house so that he can sell it to pay for her care. He starts the process but finds several indicators, including a shoe and a photo of “the boys”, which he at first assumes to be him and his younger brother, Chris. And yet, it seems, that he is the younger boy in the photo and surely the implication seems to be that he and Chris may have had an older brother, of whom he has zero knowledge. He alerts his younger brother about his suspicions and together they start to unravel this mystery.
Both John and Chris are individually fighting their demons – John struggles to commit to his girlfriend and uses alcohol to dampen down his chaotic thoughts, Chris has an ingrained pattern of running away when things start to get difficult. Their childhood was problematic in many ways and now, as the mystery threatens to blow all they know out of the water, they have find some redress and closure. They could, it seems, be opening up a whole quagmire of family dysfunction….
John takes the lead in looking deeper into his family’s history and as he assembles clues and attempts to fit the pieces of the jigsaw together, he is struck by how many people ‘recognise’ him. He is, it seems the spit of the brother, who, he discovers was called Thomas and went missing at age 14. Furthermore it becomes evident that several adolescent boys went missing around the same time, and each disappearance coincided with the arrival of The Shows – specifically the Marinellos Funfair. The police clearly were incompetent in their investigations.
As John uncovers more about his personal history, he has to contend with his own grief and deal with revelations that affect him to the core. His burgeoning headaches culminate in panic attacks as he doggedly ploughs on, trying to make sense of what he uncovers.
The author skilfully brings together several threads that make this a well rounded and gripping read. Peppy, short chapters keep the narrative bristling with anticipation. Glasgow, as a setting, is certainly recognisable. Recommended.