House of Spines by Michael Malone – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

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…

My Review

House of Spines is completely different to A Suitable Lie, the author’s previous novel and demonstrates that Michael Malone has more than one string to his bow. It is a dark thriller with a gothic slant that is at times creepy and  has an unreliable narrator. I like these types of novels a lot, and I imagine that they are difficult to write – this book does not disappoint.
Ran is very surprised when he discovers that he has inherited a mansion complete with huge library on the outskirts of Glasgow. He had never known any of his mother’s family, and never knew about their wealth. One of the few conditions he has to abide by is that the library stays intact. Initially he is overwhelmed and very happy but he soon starts to suffer. There is something unhealthy about the house, his mental state is under strain and it doesn’t take long for him to feel under pressure.
Firstly. I loved the title. The Spines are not human spines, they are the spines of the novels in the library. I could just picture the size of the library and how it must have looked. There couldn’t have been a more fitting title. With regards to the novel itself, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a more unreliable narrator than Ran. Knowing his past problems, the loss of his parents, the medication he stopped taking that controlled his bipolar condition made me question everything. I couldn’t work out which was reality and which was hallucinatory.
There are likeable and unlikeable characters, some of the more likeable characters do things that aren’t very nice, but you could see why they did them. There were a few moments where I had goosebumps. I would have liked more but I felt that the novel was more than just a gothic thriller, it was also a study of mental health and coercion. It had an unsettling ending that left me very uneasy. I sometimes wish the reader could know what happens after the last page has been turned. House of Spines is one of the better novels of this type that I have read this year.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received for review.

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