This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
20.09.2018 / Orenda Books / Psychological Thriller / Paperback / 300pp / 978-1912374335
Target Audience: Readers who appreciate authors who deliver bold and vividly human stories. This is a story about grief, suspicion and duplicity, with all the harsh themes and great twists that come with the territory.
About After He Died
You need to know who your husband really was…
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 they knew, and it becomes immediately clear that both women’s lives are in very real danger. Both a dark, twisty slice of domestic noir and taut, explosive psychological thriller, After He Died is also a chilling reminder that the people we trust the most can harbour the deadliest secrets…
Michael J. Malone is at it again and I am loving it. After He Died is a superb, pacey psychological thriller centred around grief, denial and ignorance which maintains Michael J. Malone’s reputation for deeply human narratives and the boundless intensity that come with them.
How well can you truly know the person you have spent nearly thirty years loving?
Michael J. Malone is a master of suspense, dread and mind games which he uses to make After He Died another stellar reading experience. Dialling down the eerie and haunted tones of his previous novel, House of Spines, and going back to the raw, gut-wrenching anxiety of A Suitable Lie.
Paula Gadd is suffering yet another loss after her husband Thomas dies of a heart-attack. Paula had already lost her son 7 years ago and without either of her men to anchor her, she is adrift. When an unexpected visitor at Thomas’ wake leads to Paula being forced to consider that her son’s death wasn’t an accident and her late husband is capable of murder and dirty dealings, she has to investigate all the possibilities and face up the consequences. Cornered and trapped between two versions of a man she spent the last 30 years loving, Paula must find answers before they find her first.
I thought this narrative was a lot more direct than MJM’s other novels. There is still his trademark suspenseful and gut-punching prose but it leans more heavily towards the thriller than the psychological in After He Died. MJM always has a potent central theme in each of his novels and this time around it is grief and how crippling and all consuming it truly is. I thought the fact that there were two grief stricken main characters from two incredibly different lives improved MJM’s impression on the reader and the scope of his message. Malone is exceptional in the way that he himself reads the world and translates the themes into his stories.
After He Died is brimming with a multitude of themes such as jealousy, secrecy, poverty, murder, fraud, drug addiction, family, loneliness and the fact that money doesn’t ensure happiness. I thought that MJM pacing was absolutely spot-on here, with developments, twists and reveals hitting the marks and making me want to delve deeper into this thrilling novel of deception. Paula and Cara are both interesting lead characters that are connected by grief and desperate to find answers in their own way. Paula just wants to fall into isolation but she wants to honor her husband’s memory by finding out the truth. Cara is angry even after all these years and wants everyone to know what really happened to her brother Sean. Their paths converge many times and they are a great duo. I was also impressed by how MJM managed to make Thomas a third central character through Paula as that is a hard concept to pull off. I have to say that there is a lot going on in terms of characters, a lot of players to factor in, but it works really well to keep the mystery element of After He Died alive to the very end.
MJM did a great job with the finale, I could see all the thought and planning in his writing come into play nicely in the novels last moments. You know that instant where you kind of zoom back through the narrative connecting the dots to achieve that ‘ahhhh’ moment, that is the sign of a quality psychological thriller. Michael J. Malone continues to surprise me with unique and memorable narratives that impact the way I view the world. I can’t recommend his work enough. This is a good place to start if you haven’t read any of MJM’s work yet to warm your way up to A Suitable Lie, what an experience that is. I feel that After He Died is more universally palatable than his other novels so even if you didn’t enjoy his previous work, I would recommend giving this a go.
After He Died is a testament to how far Michael J. Malone has come as an author and the originality of his craft. If you love stories that harness dread, have bold twists and are filled with individuals who are never who they seem to be then you are in luck and need to pick up a copy of After He Died right away.
About Michael J. Malone
Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country, in Ayr. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. His career as a poet has also included a (very) brief stint as the Poet- In-Residence for an adult gift shop. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize (judge: Alex Gray) from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call (a non-fiction work about successful modern-day Scots); A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage and The Bad Samaritan. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number one bestseller on AU/UK ebook charts, and House of Spines soon followed suit. Michael is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website http://www.crimesquad.com. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.