After He Died
by Michael J Malone
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 she knew, and it becomes immediately clear that both women's lives are in very real danger.
I’ve read and enjoyed two of Michael J Malone’s previous novels, House of Spines and A Suitable Lie, both of which, in my opinion, were strong 4 star reads. I’m delighted to write that his latest, After He Died, is even better.
In this stand alone, the two main characters drive the plot. Both are well drawn, making the psychological elements of the book impactful. There’s emotional power in the writing which begins at a funeral, the grieving widow living the experience through a medicated fog. The eponymous He is her dead husband Thomas Gadd. She knew him as Tommy, an adored husband of three decades. Trusted. Loved. The mourners pay respects, many of them she doesn’t recognise. One, a young woman, places a note in her pocket. A note that will change everything.
Those two women are Paula Gadd and Cara Connolly. As Paula meets Cara we, the reader, suspect all sorts. What transcribes is that both women could be in a lot of danger. Paula is wealthy. Her life had been good, apart from the death of her son seven years earlier; another death that has secrets waiting to surface. Cara is living a different lifestyle. She works with the disadvantaged and is a tough cookie. She’s looking for her own answers. Using Paula’s good memory and Cara’s punch the two women unpick threads the police won’t touch.
The action takes place in a colourful Glasgow and small island on the firth of Clyde. The settings are vivid. Revelations are revealed at a good pace and the emotions attached are always well portrayed. Thomas’ brothers, themselves as different as Paula and Cara, are also interesting characters who raise more questions as the story progresses.
It’s a murderous tale of high stakes, well-crafted and convincing. You might figure out the ending but it won’t detract from what is an excellent read.
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 www.crimesquad.com. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.