*I received an arc via the publisher in return for an honest review*
House Of Spines by Michael J Malone
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…
This novel is such an unusual mix of gothic horror, scheming relations and the fragility of mental health. It is so cleverly put together and reads right up to the very last page. Some of the quotes, I have added to my review, are some of the finest writing.
This author writes with sheer class.
The novel opens with a prologue which gives a little insight into the protagonist’s childhood. It is one, of the up most complexity and it’s revealed further in the story, as the plot develops. Ranald ‘Ran’ McGhie is contacted by a Mr Quin, a prominent lawyer, whom works within the area of wills/inheritance. Ran is set to discover some secrets about his family ancestry, that he has never been told before. Which disturbs has fragile mental health. Ran is also informed he has inherited Newton Hall, a vast mansion. Ran is completely taken aback by this discovery and remains shaken as he walks through the doors of the property.
But what other secrets wait for Ran?
What else will he uncover about those around him?
Is Newton House, what it appears to be……
Ran as a protagonist, is essentially very difficult to gauge. He is young, lonely and suffers from mental health problems. He has issues with taking his medication. Therefore, what he claims he ‘sees’ cannot be trusted. I think it was a great portrayal of someone battling their personal demons and their mental health problems at the same time. I felt that Ran made rational choices and showed a depth of knowledge of his own thought process.
It was intriguing to read, how Ran would respond to the problems that he faced in the novel.
Ran is made aware of the financial implications of the inheritance. The lawyer advises him, that a local couple live at the residence in a cottage. Mr & Mrs Hackett and they will act as housekeeper and gardener, for the large property. He is informed that his mother by birth a Fitzpatrick, ran off from the wealthy family, to marry an artist. Knowing that he is related to the Fitzpatrick’s, causes Ran to question who they are and who was his Uncle Alexander, who left him this property.
“My advice enjoy the house. Forget your new relatives. Mr Fitzpatrick didn’t have a good word to say about any of them” Mr Quinn
Ran arrives at the property and meets with Mrs Hackett. She offers him only a mere few clues of her relationship to the Fitzspatrick’s. She informs him the house as a swimming pool and a library. Both of which please, the inner writer within Ran. The house is in a remote location and the novel has a real eerie feeling within the writing.
It is expertly done!
“If you’re anything like your uncle this is the room you’ll want to spend most of your time in. The library” Mrs Hackett
Ran decides to walks into the local village of Bearsden. But for socially awkward Ran, he is aware this is quite an uncomfortable experience. Never the less, he pushes himself on, one step at a time. At a small coffee shop, he meets Liz and things develop rapidly between the pair. When he takes Liz back to the house, she is later frightened by a voice proclaiming “get out, he’s mine”.
What is happening at Newton Hall? Who are the voices from the walls?
Through the novel we learn of Ran’s diagnosis of bi-polar. We learn that he is prone to fear, anxiety sleepwalking and is disturbed by memories of the past. So when ran starts seeing the image of a loving woman in the mirror. You have to ask yourself is this a haunting? Or is Ran off his meds again? We meet Martie, Ran’s ex-wife, whom reveals her own secrets surrounding Ran’s past and his illness. We also meet Donna, a character who has been like a mother to Ran. Donna also claims to have a form of psychic gift and she warns Ran, there is a presence of a woman and she means you harm……………
“…In that padded room between denial and acceptance…”
Ran’s Behaviour becomes more and more erratic and the Hackett’s bear witness. Then Mr Quinn notifies Ran there are two living relatives, who wish to meet him. Into his life walks Marcus and Rebecca. They speak of family scandals and secrets, almost as if they seek to draw Ran into the families past. Between this and the continued hauntings, Ran does start to investigate.
Only, what he will expose, will impact all the individuals in the novel…..
“He had finally slipped beyond the veil and into the madness”
“A spine can only bend so much before it snaps”
This novel has it all mysterious characters, hazy images of ghosts, greed, lust, love, loss and heartache. This is not just a novel about mental health or a dysfunctional family. Ever tiny little twist or piece of new information, is cleverly linked to Ran. I would love to see this novel developed into a two-part TV series or a film. As it would certainly keep the viewer guessing. But then as a novel, it has some of most beautiful descriptions. I shall leave this review, with my absolute favourite, even if it is a little dark. 4.5*
“Her eyes wide with the grief of a hundred bereaved mothers”
Michael J Malone
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.
Via publisher: http://orendabooks.co.uk/michael-j-malone/