Wednesday, 26 April 2017

A Suitable Lie by Michael J. Malone

Book review by Greenacre Writer Mumpuni Murniati

Michael J.Malone takes a gamble. With three acclaimed crime books under his belt, he decides to breaks away from police business and ventures into domestic violence. From a male perspective.

Quite a departure from his usual kick-ass scenes. Malone has a young single parent Andrew Boyd, as the protagonist, whom is faced with a situation that most people would shake their heads at in disbelief.

Four years after his wife’s passing during childbirth, he meets Anna - the new girl in town. Besotted by her, his hope grows hoping she'll be a perfect mother for little Pat.

Set in Ayr, Malone’s easy and convincing narratives entice readers to embrace Andy’s increasing growing confidence of the second chance of a happiness with Anna. Almost everything about her is perfect. Except for his mother’s reservations.

Anna laughed. ‘She’s a mum. She’ll be judging.’
‘If she does, she’ll keep it to herself.’
‘Yeah. Well.’ Anna looked away from me, out of her window.
‘You’re a man. You guys miss all that stuff.’
‘What stuff?’
‘Reading between the lines.’ She turned back to me (Andy). ‘That’s where women communicate.’
She took another deep breath. Exhaled. ‘Anyway. How do I look?’

The wedding bells toll and Mrs. Boyd’s objections seem like a distance echo. Malone is apt at dropping subtle hints in the scenes that look natural, a touch of insinuation in the dialogue. The ‘shocking accident’ on their wedding night is astonishing and well versed, from which point we begin to unearth the truth about Andy’s new wife.

In so doing Malone exploits the double-edged sword of masculinity from Andy’s viewpoint. His battles with what he has to put up in the home front and what personae he has to show in public are intriguing. On the one hand, he admits he knows little about her. Neither a member of Anna’s family nor her friend has come for the nuptials. She also says nothing about her previous job before or marrying her boss. On the other hand, he wants to give her the benefit of the doubt; give her more time to adjust to married life.

At this point Malone has cast a number of doubts about the seemingly harmless woman. In the face of increasing verbal and physical abuses, Andy’s gallantness doesn’t stop Anna. Meanwhile, who would believe that a woman half his size could hurt so much? Andy’s performance at work plummets and his contact with close-knit family becomes disjointed. Meanwhile, Anna’s control tightens when she becomes pregnant with his child. Or so he thinks.

Malone is fully aware of the delicate issue he has raised in the tug-of-war game between uncompromising lies and unpleasant truths. Andy isn’t a better liar than Anna, although their consciences are distinctive. Despite Malone’s hammering of the destructive impacts of an abusive relationship, he depicts anguish, agony and frustration sensibly, while the reader marvels at the depiction of the browbeaten Andy. The feeling of being trapped in the game, only Anna has a say is apparent, and for the sake of Pat and their child, like some women, Andy stays put.

Be that as it may, Malone has chosen to reveal little about Anna. Whether this is a wise move is an entirely different matter. In sticking with Andy’s voice this is clearly advantageous to bust the myths about domestic violence. Yet without Anna, Andy would be insignificant. Possibly, a minor character or two whom might have given snippets of her past would have been beneficial. At any rate, Malone has achieved great success in arguing his points of abiding chivalry and the gender roles for men that come at a cost.

In a weak attempt to inject some routine into the day, I was dressing the boys for an early bed time when I heard the scream from downstairs.
Panicking, I ran down, taking three steps at a time, my pain forgotten. Anna was screaming insults at someone, but using my name. My steps slowed as I realised what was going on. I walked into the room just as Anna replaced the receiver. Her face was lined with pleasure. Had it been anyone else, I could never have believed the noise that had issued from this room had come from the same woman.
‘The police,’ she smiled, ‘will be here shortly.’ She then walked over to the kitchen door and turning her head to the side and slammed it against the bridge of her nose.
‘What the... are you crazy?’ I sank onto a chair. 
Did you hold your breath? Malone’s riveting characterisation and stupendous plot make the book hard to put down. Another low turning point in Andy’s life is in sight, but is it really?

Malone wins the gamble with A Suitable Lie: a highly recommended reading that depicts the wrong kind of love.

Thanks to Orenda Books for the review copy.

You can follow Michael on Twitter: @michaeljmalone1

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