Source: Review copy
Publication: Sept 17th 2020 from Orenda Books
Film star Amelie Hart is the darling of the silver screen, appearing on the front pages of every newspaper. But at the peak of her fame she throws it all away for a regular guy with an ordinary job. The gossip columns are aghast: what happened to the woman who turned heads wherever she went?
Any hope the furore will die down are crushed when Amelie’s boyfriend Dave is arrested on charges of child sexual abuse. Dave strongly asserts his innocence, and when Amelie refuses to denounce him, the press witch hunt quickly turns into physical violence, and she has to flee the country.
While Dave is locked up with the most depraved men in the country and Amelie is hiding on the continent, Damaris, the victim at the centre of the story, is isolated – a child trying to make sense of an adult world.
Breathtakingly brutal, dark and immensely moving, A Song of Isolation looks beneath the magpie glimmer of celebrity to uncover a sinister world dominated by greed and lies, and the unfathomable destruction of innocent lives … in an instant.
I’m delighted to review Michael Malone’s A Song of Isolation and to wish him the best for his superb novel. My thanks to the publisher for an early review copy. I first ran this review in July and am re-sharing it as part of the blog tour now that the paperback has been published.
There’s one overwhelming question in my head when I finish this outstanding novel. Why isn’t Michael Malone better known? Why has he not been showered with awards and nominations? It isn’t anything to do with the quality of his prose which is, as it is here, delicate, nuanced, finely crafted and in places, quite lyrical.
The only conclusion I can come to is that he is not a conventional crime writer in the sleuth solving sense. But that’s surely a strength in an overcrowded genre? To be able to stand out from the crowd should be an asset. Certainly as I think about this book with a smile on my face and a tender heart, I’m inclined to think the book world is a little mad…
In A Song of Isolation, Michael J. Malone uses his unconventional approach to look at the crime from the perspective of the girlfriend of a man accused of one of the very worst crimes; child sexual abuse.
Amelie Hart has been keeping a low profile for years, ever since she was subjected to intense stalking and a nightmare experience that left her unwilling to ever again be in the public eye. She’s settled now with her boyfriend Dave and though she loves him, there’s a bit of her, she knows, that will forever hold back. Trust is such a hard thing to recover once it has been lost and Amelie lost hers the night she was attacked.
Malone tackles his subject sensitively but there is no escaping the devastating impact on this couple of an accusation of child sexual abuse. Swiftly and without compunction, Amelie’s boyfriend Dave is taken away by the police and locked up. She realises that he may not be allowed back into their home, even if he is granted bail.
The papers, who were only too keen to speculate about her disappearance from the acting world are now hot on Amelie’s trail again….digging into her private life, asking lurid questions and speculating on what she knew and when.
Meanwhile, the child, an innocent in the midst of a ferment of lies, greed, manipulation and breath-taking selfishness is left. Damaris wants only to be loved; to have human contact, friendship and companions but is a lonely soul caught up in a whirlwind that is none of her making – isolated and confused.
As Dave negotiates a brutal and uncompromising prison system which assumes his guilt before a trial is initiated, the only question is whether he lives long enough to make to trial.
Malone’s humanity shines through in these characters, he has developed rounded and believable individuals whose feelings and emotions are so tangible that you can feel them, too – which makes their experiences stand out all the more.
A Song of Isolation is certainly the story of several crimes, but it is also a study in psychology, looking at the impact of a significant accusation on the lives of three people. He peels back the layers of show business glitz to show us a tawdry and tarnished world in which no-one comes out well and which is as destructive as it is seemingly glamorous.
Each of these three characters – Dave, Damaris and Amalie has their own song of isolation as the charm and innocence of their early lives is lost in a welter of poison, accusations and counter claims in which no-one comes out unscathed.
For Amelie, who escapes to France, the answer lies in a simpler life, but not even in France can she be truly untouched by what has gone before. Malone’s emotive and beautiful writing strikes a poetic note as he shows us Amelie struggling to understand how she might find a way to again experience an unfiltered joy in human relationships.
Verdict: Beautifully written, harrowing and sometimes brutally shocking, this is a complex, nuanced story that is utterly compelling. A stand-out read from a writer whose work is remarkable for its depth and sensitivity. I ask again, why is he not more seriously lauded?
Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country, just a stone’s throw from the great man’s cottage in Ayr. Well, a stone thrown by a catapult.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 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. Michael is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website http://www.crimesquad.com. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.