Review: Michael J Malone – Blood Tears

I first read this book in manuscript two years ago when Michael was looking for a publisher. I thought the story was both riveting and tragic, portraying the reverberations years later of child abuse in a Scottish children’s home during the 1970s. The book was published by Five Leaves Publications earlier this year, which gave me a chance to revisit the characters in Blood Tears.

Detective Inspector Ray McBain is a Glasgow detective investigating the death of a murdered man who has wounds identical to stigmata. The victim is quickly identified as a paedophile who once worked in a Catholic children’s home, Bethlehem House. McBain travels to the orphanage to retrieve a list of children who came into contact with the murdered man and removes his own name from this list in front of his new DC Allesandra Rossi. This omission has serious reverberations for McBain as the killings continue and he becomes the main suspect. He is now forced to try to prove his innocence while simultaneously investigating the case from afar.

Blood Tears has been marketed as ‘Scottish Catholic noir’ and in fact this is a very good description of the book. The novel follows the tradition of many other excellent Scottish police procedurals and McBain in particular has a lovely stock of Scottish phrases which made this English reader smile. There is also a strong Catholic theme to the book. The children’s home was run by a religious order of nuns and the current mother superior was a particularly vicious member of the community who remembers Ray as a child. The book is very good at depicting how the terrors of childhood can make a grown man fear for his own sanity. There is also a sense of unfinished business in relation to the Church although Ray’s one attempt to attend a religious service ends disastrously. The darkness that runs through the book provides the ‘noirish’ feel and the interspersed passages from the killer’s point of view show how disturbed the individual is by past events.

The book isn’t all darkness though. There is a grim humour throughout, particularly the passages involving Ray McBain. He is clearly his own worst enemy and yet as the book shows he was abandoned first by his (living) parents and then by the institution that was supposed to look after him. The irony that he then chose to go to a seminary after leaving the children’s home and then ended up in another institution – the police – isn’t lost on the reader.

The book is an excellent début and I would certainly read more the series. I doubt I’ll be lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the manuscript next time…

I bought my copy of this book. Other reviews can be found at The View from the Blue House and Crimesquad.

The author’s website is here.

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12 thoughts on “Review: Michael J Malone – Blood Tears

  1. Sarah – This is one I’ve already marked off to read, so thanks for reminding me of it. It sounds like a really well-paced story with several layers to it. And the theme of how what happens in childhood affects us later is compelling. Yes this is definitely on my TBR list.

  2. Good work, Sarah, thank you. And you cleverly noticed that McBain has swapped one institution for another as his life has progressed. Book 2 is finished, but I feel have to go back and do some tinkering as I’m going through that stage where I think everything I write is utter crap. Not fishing for compliments, but it was gratifying to hear at Harrogate that most writers go through similar thoughts.

  3. Pingback: Book review: Blood Tears by Michael J Malone | Petrona

  4. Pingback: The Best of August’s Reading « crimepieces

  5. I read this because of your review, Sarah, and really enjoyed it. The characterisation and plotting is excellent. Thanks for the tip!

  6. Pingback: Review: Michael J Malone – A Taste for Malice | crimepieces

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