Hi and welcome to my very first #Orentober #ThrowBackThursday. This week the honour goes to Michael J. Malone and his House of Spines. This was one of my very first book reviews, when I was just a baby blogger, and it’s still one of my favourite books.
This is what House of Spines is about:
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.
Imagine you’re young and poor and you live in a tiny smelly flat. Then out of the blue you’re summoned to a lawyer’s office because apparently a relative you never even knew you had, left you his ginormous library and an entire mansion for you to live in for free, complete with staff you don’t have to pay. Sounds amazing, right! There’s just one little catch: when things seem too good to be true, they usually are…
I listened to House of Spines on Audible. I’m sure it’s an amazing story in all its forms, but I quite liked to listen to David Elliott’s narration, not in the least because of his beautiful Scottish accent. As some of you might already know: I do have a certain weakness for Scottish accents.
This was my third Michael J. Malone novel. I listened to A Suitable Lie and I read After He Died. A recurring theme in all three is family: family bonds, inter-family relationships, the things that make or break a family. Although A Suitable Lie and After He Died are both great novels, House of Spines is my favourite of the three. Let me tell you why.
I loved loved loved Ranald McGhie. Ran is the perfect narrator, he is human, he is flawed, he’s a genuinely good man. He is also an unreliable narrator: because of his mental health issues you don’t quite know what is real and what isn’t. Is he in the throes of psychosis or is his mind actually clearer than ever? I’ve known a few people with mental health issues over the years and so much of Ran and what he’s going through rings true.
I LOVED the gothic setting. Come on, a gigantic, possibly haunted, mansion with a huge library? What’s not to love?! Also: I really want that library!
I loved the supernatural element. A psychological thriller AND a haunting? Goody!
The ending. Oh dear lord that ENDING! With a book like this, a mix of genres, satisfying endings are hard to come by and I’ve often found myself disappointed. So I always hope for the best and prepare for the worst, and I got absolute perfection here! I was so completely absorbed in the finale that I nearly missed my turn-off on the motorway!
This is the story for you if you’re looking for a beautifully written and unique psychological thriller. Don’t go looking for cheap thrills and a scream a minute, you won’t find that here.
This is a story about family, about betrayal, about the lengths people are willing to go to in order to get what they want. This is a story about a man trying to make sense of it all.
Very highly recommended!