Author of the Month

Name: Michael J. Malone

First Novel: Blood Tears

Most Recent Book: A Suitable Lie

'This book insidiously curls around you like a boa-constrictor...'

Andy Boyd thinks he is the luckiest man alive. Widowed with a young child, after his wife dies in childbirth, he is certain that he will never again experience true love. Then he meets Anna. Feisty, fun and beautiful, she's his perfect match... And she loves his son, too. When Andy ends up in the hospital on his wedding night, he receives his first clue that Anna is not all that she seems. He ignores it; a dangerous mistake that could cost him everything.

This is one of those reviews where I have to be careful of what I write so as not to give away too much (if anything) of this brilliant and disturbing novel. Be prepared to have your emotions not only stirred, but turned upside-down and inside-out. That is how I felt whilst reading ‘A Suitable Lie’. This is not only a departure from Malone’s previous novels, this is a whole new continent.

Many of us read because we want to be entertained – which this does – but we also want to care about the people who populate a book. We want to feel something for them, react to the events foisted upon them. I guarantee you will feel a tsunami of different emotions as you turn page after page. Malone turns the concept of a violent marriage on its head. Suddenly, small gestures become spiteful and menacing, a precursor to an all-out storm of rage. Malone even manages to convey how an abuser may have once been the abused - how one’s past can define the present. It is all very uncomfortable stuff, but Malone’s poetic prose hypnotises and horrifies in equal measure, magnetising my hands to this book. It has the feel of watching a car crash through the fingers of your hand. You don’t want to watch, but can’t help yourself observing. The same could be said of ‘A Suitable Lie’.

This book insidiously curls around you like a boa-constrictor – and it won’t release you until you have read the final page. Thought-provoking, educational and if you don’t feel anything when you lay down this book, then you must have a heart of stone. Malone will become stellar with this book.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating


1) Without giving away too much of the nucleus of ‘A Suitable Lie’, what was the spark that started you on this journey?
It was 1998. I was on a ferry going to Dunoon and on my car radio an “agony aunt” was talking to a man who described himself as a 6 foot tall rugby playing, policeman and his wife as a delicate, 5 feet tall woman who regularly beat him. I was taken completely by surprise. At that time we were becoming better at acknowledging Domestic Abuse happening to women, but I’d never heard of it happening to a man.

I did some research, spoke to a few people and with surprising ease came across a number of men this had happened to. Initially I worried that the subject was too big for my fledgling writer’s brain and then I read one commentator on the issue who said that the situation for male victims of domestic abuse was as bad as it was for women thirty years previously. And it struck me that this was a story that needed to be told.
2) This is your first foray in to what in recent years has been classed as ‘Domestic Noir’. How different was it writing this book compared to the structure of a police investigation as in your McBain novels?
Yes, the McBain books are essentially police procedurals, but I always have him striking out into other kinds of territory, and the “police” side of it is only one aspect of those novels. So, not as different as you might expect. I always seem to go for variety in the set-up of my novels. There are books where the story begins with the crime (as in the more typical procedurals) but others where the crime happens at the end, and others still where the crime hasn’t happened and McBain’s job is to stop it from ever occurring. In this one, the police barely featured and the crime was ongoing throughout the novel.
3) You manage to keep your plot moving whilst still giving us the minutiae of a troubled marriage. Were you worried at any time that the domestic setting would not be thrilling enough to sustain the book?
Not really, to be honest. I hoped that the questions I was posing and the suspense I created through the situation my characters found themselves in would be enough of a driver for the reader.
4) ‘Domestic Noir’ is written predominantly by women. What do you feel you brought to the table as a man writing in this sub-genre – and were there a few raised eyebrows when you told people about the subject of your book?
What did I bring to the table? I have no clue. You’ll have to ask the readers about that. Raised eyebrows? More than a few. Actually, along the years I’ve had the same conversation about this over and over. The person asks what I’m working on. I tell them. More often than not they laugh, because a man being beaten by his wife is funny apparently. They they’ll pause and say, actually that needs to be talked about more. And then they’ll add - as if it had just occurred to them that what they’d heard of happening was actually abuse - it happened to a friend/ neighbour/ colleague of mine. Honestly, if I had a pound for every time I’ve had that conversation over the years …
5) Anna is in turns a demon and an angel. I felt you struck the right balance and didn’t turn her in to a caricature. Were the personas of the people involved as important to you as the plot?
Absolutely. I take that approach with all of my books. I remember one of my first creative writing tutors when using movies to highlight her point said, you leave the cinema and it’s not the plot that stays with you as you go back into your life, it’s the characters.

With Anna I was mindful that it would be too easy to turn her into a caricature. A wise woman once said, referring to survivors of abuse, we are all victims of victims – and I was mindful of that when I was building the character of Anna. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Sure, some people are just born bad, but for lots of damaged and damaging people the nurturing aspect was terribly flawed as they grew up, or they experienced some form of privation and they are a product of that environment – and without excusing her behaviour (or any pattern of abuse) I felt I needed to draw on that to offer the reader a multi-dimensional reading experience.
6) Near the end of the book there is a bald guy with a yellow Labrador on the beach. Is that you by any chance? If so, are you now making ‘Hitchcockian’ appearances in your books?
You noticed that? Great. That was just a wee surprise for my friends. Will I repeat it? Watch this space.
7) For writers who are just starting out on their ‘novel journey’, what one piece of advice would you give?
I always go back to the quote from Stephen King when asked this question; “Read a lot and write a lot.” That’s it. Nutshell.
8) Are you a fan of crime fiction in general? What would you say are the top three crime novels that have made a lasting impression on you and would take with you to a desert island?
Absolutely! I love crime fiction. I only get three? I’d be afraid to take them on to a desert island in case I get tired of them.

This changes by the week or by the day even, but I’ll have a go.

Silence of the Lambs - Thomas Harris. Sorry if this is predictable, but it is SO good. Ticks all the boxes.

Every Dead Thing - John Connolly. Atmospheric, thrilling and beautiful writing. And he’s kept the standards up with the rest of the series. He’s one of my drop everything else writers. As in, his newest book goes straight to the top of my mountainous To-Be-Read pile.

The Garnethill Series (I know I’m cheating with a series) by Denise Mina. I KNEW the people in the pages of these books – not really, but you know what I mean. They were so well crafted in all their human glory and frailty. Mina writes with dark humour and a clear-eyed honesty about human beings that draws me in every time.