cover image House of Spines

House of Spines

Michael J. Malone. Orenda (IPG, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (276p) ISBN 978-1-910

The life of writer Ranald McGhie, the protagonist of this unoriginal haunted house thriller from British author Malone (A Suitable Lie), is radically transformed after a bequest from the late Alexander Fitzpatrick, a member of one of Glasgow’s oldest merchant families. Alexander’s solicitor informs Ranald that his mother was Alexander’s previously unacknowledged niece, who became estranged from her family after running off with Ranald’s father. Alexander, who had learned that Ranald was a professional writer, has left him a mansion to live in in exchange for Ranald’s continuing to write. For Ranald, who has been struggling to get by, the legacy is a godsend, and he takes up residence immediately. On his first day there, an attractive older woman, Liz, picks him up at a coffee shop and they sleep together in the house, only for Liz to flee in terror after hearing a voice whisper menacingly, “Get out, he’s mine.” Soon afterward, Ranald senses a ghostly, carnal presence. Malone offers no genuine scares, and Ranald is not a sufficiently developed lead to compensate for their absence. (Apr.)