Blog Tour Review: House of Spines by Michael J. Malone

I am thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for House of Spines, a most unusual book and quite unlike anything I have ever read before. Many thanks to Orenda books and Michael Malone for letting me have a copy of the book and a space on the tour.

Blurb:  A terrifying psychological thriller cum Gothic mystery, as a young man with mental health issues inherits an isolate mansion, where all is not as it seems…

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 it seems has been watching from afar as his estranged great-nephew has grown up. Entering his new-found home, it seems 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…

Rating: 5/5

Review: I can honestly say this is the most perplexing story I have read in a long time, possibly ever. It only works because it is exceedingly well-written, if this were attempted by someone less talented it would be nonsense but in Michael Malone’s hands it is a story which seeps into you every time you pick up the book. Every little thought and feeling that Ran has is so well described (without being laboured) that it’s almost as if you are him rather than just someone reading a book. 

There’s not a lot I can say about this book without giving away too much but I can say the majority of it takes place in the house Ran inherits. The house and it’s environment are so skillfully constructed that each time I’ve picked up the book I’ve felt apprehensive and wary, basically the exact feelings Ran has for a large part of the story, and in the times when I haven’t been reading the book has been calling to me, something I have never experienced before. 

I tend not to enjoy books that don’t flow well. For me the act of reading automatically conjures up a movie in my head as I read. Poorly written books are like a movie reel that stutters and so I struggle to read them. Well-written books like this one flow smoothly and without any prompting or thought on my part. This is particularly impressive in the case of this book because it is, as I said, quite perplexing. The main character is constantly confused or doubting himself and the story jumps sometimes from one time or place to a different place or a few hours later without warning. In many books this would be a problem but in this one it isn’t simply because of the skill of the author.  

I already knew how good a storyteller Michael Malone is because I read and reviewed A Suitable Lie last year but this has surpassed even that and I can’t wait to see what he produces next. 

Author bio:

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize 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.  His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number one bestseller.  Michael is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.


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