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Wednesday, 18 December 2019

‘In the Absence of Miracles’ by Michael J. Malone

Published by Orenda Books,
19 September 2019.
ISBN: 977-1-912374-79-3 (PBO)

John Docherty visits his mother in a nursing home after she has had a bad stroke. He realises she will never fully recover, and he will have to sell her home to pay for her keep. He visits the house and sets about clearing it out.

On searching the attic, he finds a single shoe with what looks like a stain of dried blood. In a box among trunks and numerous articles he comes across photographs, one of which shows John seemingly with a brother he never knew he had.Intrigued, John is determined to find out more. On making enquiries he finds evidence that a Thomas Docherty aged fourteen disappeared while riding his sports bike and was never seen again. Furthermore, he comes across proof that Thomas was indeed his unknown brother. Why had no one ever told him he existed?

Investigating the past John discovers that Thomas was not the only boy to disappear. Three were reported missing, each when the same funfair was visiting their hometowns. A coincidence?

A relation of a friend of John's was one of the boys who disappeared, and they join together to try and get to the bottom of the mystery. The further they dig into the past the more disturbed they become. On speaking to different people with connections to those days it becomes apparent that there was evidence of child abuse. It had all been very hushed up. The more they discover, the more determined John is to find out about Thomas, the brother he never knew he had. Did he die or is he still out there somewhere? Not only that, but what happened to the other missing boys?

Although beautifully and sensitively written, this is a very moving and at times harrowing story. Sometimes heart stoppingly thrilling and at others heart-breaking but emotionally rewarding. I did actually enjoy it very much although it deals with a very difficult subject. The ending at least is very satisfying, and I recommend it at the very least for that reason.
Reviewer: Tricia Chappell 
Michael J Malone 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, maybe. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. Blood Tears, his debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize (judge:Alex Gray) from the Scottish Association of Writers and when it was published he added a "J" to his name to differentiate it from the work of his talented U.S. namesake. He can be found on twitter - @michaelJmalone1

Tricia Chappell. I have a great love of books and reading, especially crime and thrillers. I play the occasional game of golf (when I am not reading). My great love is cruising especially to far flung places, when there are long days at sea for plenty more reading! I am really enjoying reviewing books and have found lots of great new authors.

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