After He Died
by Michael J Malone
Publication Date : September 15, 2018 (UK) March 1, 2019 (US)
Pages : 276
Synopsis From Publisher:
When Paula Gadd’s husband of almost thirty years dies, just days away from the seventh anniversary of their son Christopher’s death, her world falls apart. Grieving and bereft, she is stunned when a young woman approaches her at the funeral service, and slips something into her pocket. A note suggesting that Paula’s husband was not all that he seemed… When the two women eventually meet, a series of revelations challenges everything Paula thought she knew, and it becomes immediately clear that both women’s lives are in very real danger.
I have read three of Malone’s previous books. What I noticed about all three is how the story starts right away. There is no build up, no setting the scene, the story begins with the first word. This immediately makes me sit up and pay close attention afraid to miss any details. After He Died is no exception, Malone’s straight forward approach to writing will grip readers from the very start and will leave them shocked and a little disturbed but in the best way possible.
Malone’s writing is the most immersive I have come across. He has a way of making the reader feel as if they are taking the journey along with the characters. You learn what they learn as they discover it. The characters are all mainly innocent and stumble onto something sinister which turns their life upside-down. Not only are they mostly innocent, but the way they find themselves in their dangerous situation is not far fetched at all. A marriage to a person who turns out to be a psychopath, an unexpected inheritance, the death of a spouse. In addition to making his books compelling, this easily allows readers to connect to each of the lead characters. Malone’s writing will make readers think about what they would do if they were in the characters situation.
In After He Died we meet Paula Gadd. Her husband of thirty years has died and Paula’s life has taken an unexpected turn. While at her husband’s funeral, a young woman approaches and hands her a piece of paper. On the paper is a handwritten note implying Paula’s husband had secrets and that Paula had not known him at all. When the two women meet they both reveal facts unknown to the other. After meeting the mysterious young woman, events take place which confuse Paula but also give credence to what the young woman said. Paula tries to return to her life as a grieving widow but her husband’s past continues to haunt her.
The young woman who approaches Paula at her husband’s funeral is Cara Connelly. Cara is suffering with grief as well. Two years ago, her brother Sean was murdered ; Sean’s murderer was never identified. When I started After He Died I assumed Cara and Paula would unite in their grief, once they got through the circumstances of their initial meeting. Instead they are combative and suspicious of each other. I certainly understood their mutual hesitation, but this took the story in a direction I was not expecting. It was not until I finished the book, that I realized this is what made After He Died so interesting.
Cara is employed as a social worker. On a daily basis she deals with addiction, abuse, and despair. Cara’s background and work is in stark contrast to Paula’s upper middle class lifestyle. Cara is extremely resentful of Paula and Paula seems to be completely unaware of anything outside of her privileged world. To me, this is the reason Paula and Cara are unable to connect. For Paula, Cara represents reality not just regarding her husband, but of the world outside of Paula’s “bubble”. This gave After He Died an even more tense feel, on top of the conflict between the two concerning Paula’s husband, there was an underlying battle between social classes.
After He Died cements Malone as one of the best writers of psychological suspense. The story of an innocent person thrust into a dangerous situation will never grow old thanks to authors like Malone. While House of Spines is still my favorite book by Malone, After He Died is a close second. I eagerly await the release of Malone’s next book.
**Thanks to Orenda Books for my free copy of After He Died**
Murder and Moore Rating :
4.5 out of 5 Stars
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 soon followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.
Q & A
MM: Around this time last year, I was reading House of Spines. House of Spines became one of my favorite books. It is so nice to start the fall season this year with your newest release After He Died AND to have the chance to ask you a few questions. Thank you for taking the time.
MJM: Thank you for saying so – thank you for having me, and for being part of this amazing blog tour!
MM: What authors have inspired you?
MJM: Oh, man, the list is looooong. My first book crush was Enid Blyton. I tore through her books as a kid. Then I found CS Lewis and Ursula Le Guin. Next came Stephen King, Wilbur Smith and Catherine Cookson. Then I went through a spell of reading only horror and fantasy novels from people like David Eddings, Raymond Feist and Robert McCammon (he’s a bit forgotten in the UK but he’s every bit as good as Mr King). Then I discovered my own people – Scottish talent - and devoured everything I could find of writers including William McIlvanney, Val McDermid and Denise Mina. After that I had a binge of US crime writers like George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane and Meg Gardner.
I could go on. And on. I think whatever you enjoy reading is going to have some sort of influence on your writing and what unites all these writers is that they are all great storytellers.
MM: I absolutely loved House of Spines. I read other reviews which compared it to Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. What do you think of this comparison?
MJM: That was VERY pleasing. Du Maurier is considered a bit of a legend and to be mentioned in the same sentence as her is a real compliment. A few people commented in this way and asked – given that there were a couple of Du Maurieresque moments in the book – if it was an homage to the great writer. For example I have a character in the book called Mrs Winters. This is a shameful admission, but I’ve never read any of her books or watched any movies based on them, so any similarities are purely coincidental – which given the type of book this is, is pretty spooky.
MM: In A Suitable Lie, you tell the story of a man being abused by his wife. Unfortunately, this situation occurs more often than one would think. Why did you choose to discuss domestic abuse with the husband as the victim?
MJM: Precisely because – as you say – it happens more often than one would think. As a society, thanks to brilliant campaigning from womens’ groups, we have woken up to how many women are in this situation and help is in place for them. Sadly, the same cannot be said for men who are victims of domestic abuse. There’s a short film available on Youtube that highlights the differing attitudes we have. A pair of actors in busy street play the part of abused and abuser. When the female actor plays the abused victim lots of people step in to help. When the roles are reversed lots of people laugh and point, and one man even joined in abusing the male.
Having spoken to countless men who’ve been in this situationand their families, it depresses me how little help these men get. For example in my home country of Scotland the government announced an increase in the budget for female victims. Which is hugely welcome, as these women need all the help that can be provided for them. However, when pressed about how much money was going to male victims the answer was a list of amounts (well over £1 million) to a variety of groups that ALL work with male offenders. The male VICTIMS get nothing. I hope my book – reader by reader – will help to change attitudesand raise awareness.
MM: In House of Spines, After He Died, and A Suitable Lie, the common theme is an innocent person thrown into a web of deceit and danger. What is it about this premise that intrigues you?
MJM: I enjoy reading books that are sheer escapism – thrillers where incredibly talented and intelligent people work their way out of danger with well-practised skill. But there is a remove there. These people are almost super-human. That’s not you or I. I don’t bring “me” into the reading of that book. Whereas the ordinary man or woman in peril book plays into our own fears. What would I do in that situation? How on earth would I handle that? And that kind of situation is a much more immediate and a tense reading experience.
MM: Looking back on House of Spines, A Suitable Lie, and After He Died which character do you most relate to?
MJM: I’d say Andy in a A Suitable Lie. I’m happy to report that I’ve never been in an abusive relationship, but I am a father and I was able to bring that lived experience and the fears that a father has for their child into the writing of his character.
MM: What are you currently reading?
MJM: I’ve finished Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry last night. It had been ages since I read a Western and it was such a treat. I recently read Louise Beech’s The Lion Tamer Who lost and I’m still haunted by its beauty.
MM: I visited your website. I found links for editing and mentoring services for writers. What advice would you give to someone who would like to write a book?
MJM: Get the work done. That book won’t write itself. If you are serious about writing, you’re in it for the long haul. Read a lot. Write a lot. Learn how to accept feedback - NO ONE writes the perfect book first time out.
MM: Can you tell us about what you are working on next?
MJM: Nope. If I tell you I’d have to kill you. *throws head back and gives evil laugh*I’m still at that stage of teasing out the tale and reluctant to talk about it while I’m going through that process. What I will say is that it involves ordinary people in trying circumstances – more families and more lies
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