by Michael J Malone
Looking for a good read to coorie in with on a wild winter’s night?
Then, look no further than The Murmurs by Ayrshire author Michael J Malone – a tale with a whisper of the supernatural about it, dealing with repressed memories, secrets, lies, fractured family relationships and evil hidden crimes.
Malone, a prolific and talented writer, has already penned a dozen books including domestic noir A Suitable Lie and spooky mystery House of Spines.
Lucky for all bookaholics, The Murmurs is his 13th novel.
This creepy but compulsive page-turner opens with an intriguing prologue; an extract from the memoir of an 18th century Highland woman hinting at a mysterious curse, courtesy of a witch, that afflicts the female line of her family.
Jumping forward in time to present-day Glasgow, the reader is introduced to Annie Jackson. Annie’s been having recurring nightmares, then, on her first shift at her new job in a care home, she experiences disturbing visions and hears malevolent whispered voices predicting the imminent death of an elderly resident. Imagine Annie’s shock and confusion the next morning when the old man is found dead. Her dreadful prophecy has come true. Unable to return to her job, she resigns, and turns to her twin brother, Lewis, for help and support. Together they embark on a quest to dig into Annie’s past to find a reason for her visions and ‘the murmurs’ – a task hampered by the fact that, triggered by the horrific car accident which seriously injured her and killed her mother, Annie has blocked out memories from her childhood.
As long-held secrets are spilled and deceptions exposed, from a cast of characters as diverse as a stalker ex-con, a secretive nun and a vile old pastor, Annie’s unsure who to trust or what to believe. But what becomes clear is, all lines of the siblings’ research stretch back to Mossgow, the (fictional) tight-night and religious community on the remote and atmospheric Ardnamurchan Peninsula on Scotland’s west coast, where they were raised and where Annie, it transpires, first experienced a vision
And so it is to Mossgow, with trepidation, Annie must return to confront her past and uncover the terrifying truth.
Malone cleverly reveals the intricacies of the story through the dual timeline of Annie Now and Annie Then ( pre- the accident which robbed her of her mum and her memory). Short impactful chapters, laced with menace, including those told from the perspectives of loyal brother Lewis and Annie’s cold and distant mother, Eleanor, keep the book’s pace scudding along and the reader hooked.
The author’s beautifully written memoir extracts from Moira McLean, Annie’s long-dead ancestor, give the spine-chilling history behind the family curse which plagues future generations of her womenfolk and provides a fascinating insight into the sinister and superstitious attitudes towards 17th century witches in Scotland and the fate that befell them.
Right from the first page, The Murmurs cast a spell on me – having a great interest in my own family history, I was captivated by the idea of an age-old family curse and totally engrossed in Annie’s attempts to cope with the repercussions and her trauma. I enjoyed the strong and supportive relationship between Annie and Lewis and admired how Malone maintained suspense and fear throughout the chapters until the scary, tense but satisfying conclusion.
It is fair to say I really loved The Murmurs and heartily recommend you add it to your Santa wish list.
Publisher: Orenda Books
ISBN: ISBN 9781914585821