Book Review | House of Spines by Michael J. Malone

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House of Spines

By Michael J Malone

Orenda Books

Publishing Date: April 1, 2018

Pages: 276

Synopsis from Publisher:

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.

House of Spines has left me speechless. The only way to describe this book is AWESOME. The plot, the imagery, the characters, the pacing, it is all perfection.  There are so many things I love about this book, that this review could go on until my fingers fell off. I have managed to narrow down the elements of this novel I found the most wonderful.

The Atomsphere and Imagery:

The story is set in Glasglow Scotland on a large estate which contains the “big house” Newton Hall, where Ran resides. Malone’s descriptions of the estate allowed me to create an image so vivid, that I could see myself walking up the front steps of the estate with Ran. Malone describes manicured lawns and gardens, with two lion sculptures standing guard at the front door. The large windows are covered with large draperies. Whenever I see lion sculptures in front of building I assume one of two things. You have to be very brave to enter the building the lions are guarding, or the lions are symbols of protection over the people or things housed within the structure.  In the case of Newton Hall both assumptions may apply.

Ran McGhie:

I was completely enamored with Ran by page 6 of this book. He is emotionally damaged and fragile but he is as sharp as a tack. Because of his mental instability he is underestimated by some of the other characters in the book. These characters quickly realize Ran is much more than his mental illness and he will not be taken for a fool.

I felt completely in sync with Ran throughout the whole book. He really has no secrets, everything he learned about Newton Hall and his family I learned at the same time. Ran is hesitant to explore the house and its secrets, I wanted to push him up the steps of the house and open the unexplored doors for him. There is a section of the book where you can tell that Ran is starting to become a little unhinged and his mental illness is starting to take hold.  While reading this section I felt anxious and was hoping Ran would pull himself out of the mist. Malone has created a character that is broken but not beyond repair, you will want to reach into the book and encourage Ran (maybe even force feed him his medication) to hang in there.

Reminiscent of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier:

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is possibly my favorite book of all time. To me it is the perfect blend of psychological suspense and crime fiction. Rebecca is the book that kindled my love of suspense and crime fiction books. I could not help but draw comparisons between House of Spines and Rebecca. Both have a seemingly unsuspecting innocent main character thrown into a tangle of secrets. Both characters have to maneuver through these secrets while trying to maintain their sanity. House of Spines and Rebecca both take place in a huge house where the sprit of a beautiful dark haired woman lingers. I have read Rebecca many times over the years and I had the same feelings while reading House of Spines as I do each time I read Rebecca. Feelings of anxiety and wanting to push the main character to uncover the mysteries forced upon them.

Ran McGhie is a lonely writer who struggles daily to pay his bills and maintain his mental and emotional stability. Suddenly his fortunes turn and he inherits an estate from an unknown great uncle. Upon his arrival Ran feels uneasy but he ignores these feelings of unease and tries to settle into this new life. The house is filled with old secrets of his unknown family and something else that Ran is unable to describe. As he begins to unearth the buried secrets of the house and his family he begins to lose touch with himself and reality.

I am unable to fully describe how much I enjoyed this book. I literally had to ration out the pages so I would not finish it in one sitting. I did not want the book to end. Malone has created a masterpiece worthy to rank alongside one of my literary heroines Daphne du Maurier. Whenever I read Rebecca I will instantly think of House of Spines. If you are looking for a read that fill you with anxiety and maybe cost you a night’s sleep, House of Spines will fit the bill.


Murder and Moore Rating:

5 out of 5 Stars

 *Thanks to Orenda Books for my free copy for review.*