In The Absence of Miracles by Michael J Malone
|In The Absence of Miracles by Michael J Malone|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: A decent page-turner of a thriller following the slow uncovering of a family's darkest secrets.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 300||Date: October 2019|
|Publisher: Orenda Books|
|External links: Author's website|
John Docherty's mother has been taken into a nursing home following a massive stroke. It is thought unlikely that she will ever be able to live independently again. Faced with having to sell the family home in order to pay for her nursing care, Docherty starts the clear out. In the attic he finds a childhood picture of himself, holding a toddler – a toddler he knows nothing about. He also finds a blood-stained shoe.
Unable to just let the mystery lie, he starts to dig. This leads him to discoveries about his past that he knew nothing about and rediscoveries of things that he had buried to deeply to remember.
His journey takes him back to the 1980s, and the travelling fairgrounds that were probably living out the last of their glory days at that time. Helped by his wayward younger brother, who proves to have more about him that first meets the eye, Docherty is drawn into an investigation about missing children. Three boys all went missing round about the same time… one body was found. Nothing was ever heard of the other two. Was there a connection with the shows – and what does it have to do with a bloodied shoe and an incomprehensible picture?
Slowly family secrets begin to emerge, and John is forced to face up to the darkness that he has contained for so long.
The subject matter is sensitively handled, the violence is not over-played and only towards the end is the emotional impact allowed to truly surface.
In the absence of too many twists in the tale – the plot is fairly predictable in places – the story still pulls you along at a rapid enough pace to keep the pages turning. I read it two sittings, which is always the sign of a decent thriller.
If I have a criticism of the book it's in the various points of view taken. Part of the story is first person, told by Docherty himself, but when needing to show us things outside of orbit the author slips into the omniscient narrator third person. I found this juddering and think it would have been better if we'd either stayed with Docherty (which would have meant a major restructure of the storyline) or switched between him, his younger brother Chris and Thomas – the other person in the childhood photo.
It's a minor point though… the book does its job, tells a decent story and neatly ties up all the loose ends as we demand in books, even though we know it never works out quite that neatly in real life.
If you enjoyed In the Absence of Miracles, we can recommend further family disfunction in form of Lies Lies Lies by Adele Parks.
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