John Docherty is a school-teacher. He’s just been made head of his department, and he’s struggling to commit to his long-time (extremely patient) girlfriend Angela. But his mother’s recently suffered a massive stroke and is currently in a care facility and she’s going to have to remain there as she’s unable to continue living on her own. However, in order to fund this, the house she’s lived in for most of her married life will have to be sold. Clearing out the house and taking care of the sale will fall to John as his younger brother Chris is unreliable and prefers to absent himself from the family most of the time, preferring to gallivant around the world with a series of ‘sugar mommies’!
So, already finding himself under substantial stress, and relying heavily on alcohol to sustain his rising anxiety, John attempts to tackle the task at hand. While doing so, he discovers a blood-stained shoe and a photo depicting a teenager who looks very much like him, holding a toddler. Written on the back is ‘the boys’ – how his father always referred to him and Chris. But this is most definitely not the two of them. He figures out that he is the toddler … so who is the older boy?
As John goes in search of the answers to the many questions he has, his already tenuous grip on his life, starts to unravel. And as it becomes evidently clear that he had an older brother that he has absolutely no recollection of, John realises that it will be impossible for his future to be complete without him knowing the truth about his past.
Brilliantly written to keep readers turning those pages in eager anticipation for whatever is about to hit them next, Malone has created a shocking stunner of a book! Dealing with sensitive issues and repressed memory he reminds us of a time (not so long ago really) when things were perhaps tremendously different to the high-tech era that we live in today: the days of ‘The Shows’ (similar to the travelling circus), where people may have been less vigilant, less suspicious, and possibly a lot more naive and less inclined to question.
Malone also looks at the psychological aspect of differing perspectives, which I found riveting. John and Chris have completely different memories of their younger years. Whereas John – when he really thinks about it – is astounded to discover that he has barely any memory of his younger years, Chris does. And this is the very reason why he keeps his distance from home.
This is an outstanding 5-star read. The author has maintained a perfect balance between giving his readers a feeling of unease and empathy- surely not an easy thing to achieve!
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 Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage; The Bad Samaritan and Dog Fight. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines and After He Died soon followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr.
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