REVIEW: After He Died by Michael J Malone

Series: N/A

Book Number: N/A

Read this book for: Scottish mystery, psychological thriller, emotional characters, female leads, creepy thriller

Quick Review: Slow-paced and set on a refreshingly small scale, this thriller seems to swirl around the main character while she grieves the death of her husband, in an interesting and rare perspective.

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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.

AFTER HE DIED is another standalone novel from Michael J Malone, launched earlier this year. It centres around the story of Paula Gadd, mourning the death of her husband and discovering that he might have been involved in much more shady and dangerous dealings than she ever would have imagined.

This is an interesting premise, and Malone does a fairly good job of not just following the obvious path as the plot winds through the book. However, be warned that the plot of this novel is spare and moves rather slowly. This is not a fast-paced action thriller, or even a menacing psychological thriller. Paula has nagging questions that she does not always want the answer to, and occasionally avoids actively pursuing more information. She, understandably, spends large portions of the novel simply overwhelmed by her grief while the story happens around her. In fact, aside from a few moments, she seems to be largely detached from the goings on until much later on in the novel. It’s an interesting approach, but may not be comfortable for you if you are not expecting it.

In fact, this entire novel is much more saturated in emotion than your standard thriller or suspense novel. As Paula struggles under the weight of her guilt, her decisions are irrational and occasionally contrary to what would be needed to move the story forward. Without spoiling anything, the other leading character seems to also make decisions largely due to emotion — frequently anger — rather than any sort of rational investigation. The human element is strongly in evidence with these characters, but this is not a novel about a systematic investigation. Breakthroughs and answers come by accident, rather than by their effort.

This makes this novel kind of an odd experience for someone used to the standard investigations of crime novels, if that is what your are expecting going into it. It’s not strictly noir either, falling into a kind of grey zone between psychological thriller and moody noir. This novel is best read with an open mind about what kind of story it really is.

AFTER HE DIED is something that should be experienced if you are looking for a domestic, semi-psychological drama outside of the norm, and it will reward the open-minded reader by defying its genre expectations.

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