Written by Michael J Malone — A lonely widower, bringing up his son alone, isn’t really in the market for romance but finds it all the same – surely the stuff of Victorian potboilers and Barbara Cartland? Early signs are good as Andy Boyd finally meets the perfect woman to replace his beloved wife Patricia, who died giving birth to their son, Pat, now a toddler. Anna is gorgeous, feisty and a lot of fun and looks like a match made in heaven.
Cue the hearts, flowers and violins as the pair get closer. Anna loves young Pat and Andy loves Anna. He never thought he could ever find another woman to match his darling first wife, but the beautiful, vivacious Anna sweeps him off his feet and he proposes – what could possibly go wrong? When Andy ends up in A&E on his wedding night, we begin to realise that Anna is not the sweet little lady she first seemed.
Domestic violence is given a stark, shocking twist in a book that takes you places you probably have never wanted to go. Andy is a big, bruising rugby player with a management role at a bank in Ayr. He’s been brought up to respect women and care for them. How is a tiny, defenceless-looking female managing to make his life utter hell? Who on earth would believe his story, if he were brave enough to share it with anyone?
It’s surely a stroke of genius to set this turned-on-its-head tale of domestic violence in Scotland, where the image of macho men in kilts giving their all for a damsel in distress still lingers. It’s probably thanks to the aforementioned pink-coiffured romantic novelist and her ilk that such myths survive – and A Suitable Lie will surely go some way to setting the record straight.
As countless lurid headlines tell us these days, what goes on behind closed doors can be the stuff of nightmares. It’s certainly true of this book – and in every sense, because there was no way I could sleep until I’d reached the bitter end.
As Andy teeters on the edge, battling the urges to fight back, terrified of what will happen to his children (for young Pat now has a little brother), you will be dragged along with him. It can surely only end in tears – but who will be shedding them?
Author Michael J Malone is an award-winning poet, but there’s scant romanticism in a brave novel that doesn’t pull back in its haunting descriptions of the wrong done by one human to another. Settings, plot lines and characters are pin-sharp in their realism – it’s almost like watching a fly-on-the-wall documentary.
This is possibly one of the most disturbing examples of domestic noir I’ve read and there were times when I had to put it down, walk away and wait for my nerves to settle and stomach to cease its roiling. There’s an unfathomable darkness here that no light will ever permeate.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars