In the Absence of Miracles

Michael J. Malone. Orenda (IPG, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (300p) ISBN 978-1-912374-79-3

In this formulaic mystery set in Glasgow from Malone (A Suitable Lie), John Docherty is rooting around in the house of his elderly mother, recently moved to a nursing home after having a stroke, when he comes across a photo of two boys, one of whom appears to be him. After John shares his find with his younger brother, Chris, they realize that he isn’t the older boy in the picture—and that they had an older brother whose very existence has been a secret. Further digging yields a newspaper clipping describing a search for 14-year-old Thomas Docherty, who vanished while on an errand decades earlier, when John was a baby. The Dochertys’ mother is no condition to provide answers, and John predictably dismisses advice to leave the past alone and seeks to discover Thomas’s fate, which he suspects is connected to several other disappearances linked to a traveling funfair. The unsurprising answers he finds connect with his anger issues. John isn’t a sufficiently engaging protagonist to compensate for the lackluster plot line. Malone won’t win any new readers with this one. (Mar.)