The Pain Tourist by Paul Cleave @PaulCleave @OrendaBooks

Source: Review copy
Publication: 10 November 2022 from Orenda Books
PP: 300
ISBN-13: 978-1914585487

My thanks to Orenda Books for an advance copy for review

James Garrett was critically injured when he was shot following his parents’ execution, and no one expected him to waken from a deep, traumatic coma. When he does, nine years later, Detective Inspector Rebecca Kent is tasked with closing the case that her now retired colleague, Theodore Tate, failed to solve all those years ago.

But between that, and hunting for Copy Joe – a murderer on a spree, who’s imitating Christchurch’s most notorious serial killer – she’s going to need Tate’s help … especially when they learn that James has lived out another life in his nine-year coma, and there are things he couldn’t possibly know, including the fact that Copy Joe isn’t the only serial killer in town…

This is only the second book by Paul Cleave that I have read but I am immensely impressed by the way his writing draws me into his story right from the outset. There’s fluidity to his prose thatmakes it so easy to get lost in this fantastic storytelling and his world building is tremendous.

The star of this story is the young James Garrett; traumatically injured during a home invasion that saw his parents shot to death in front of him, we join James as he begins waking up from his nine year coma. What we find is that life for James never came to a halt. All the time he was in a coma he was living his best life and all the while his mind has taken the conversations of the outside world and fed them into his unconscious, incorporating them into the diaries of his inner world.

James is of course, the best hope that police have for finally finding out who was responsible for the death of James’ parents and for retired Detective Theodore Tate it is the case that still haunts him and that he wants and needs to see closed.

Detective Rebecca Kent is the Detective charged with catching Copy Joe – a sick and twisted murderer whose crimes echo those of other serial killers and now she has been given James’s case to solve too. It’s an immense burden.

But nothing to do with brain trauma and recovered memory is straightforward and Rebecca will have to find a way to reconcile and make sense of James’ unconscious world in order to get to the truth. It’s so lightly done and so beautifully written that this element of the story telling fits incredibly well into the detecting elements of other crimes.

Paul Cleave draws such realistic and empathetic characters that you can’t help but get drawn into their lives and you really do care about what happens not just to James and his sister Hazel,  but also to Theo and Rebecca.

That means that as soon as we realise that others are watching and have been waiting for James to show signs of consciousness, our hearts start beating faster and we begin to fear for the safety of those we have only just begun to know.

It’s an extraordinary writing feat that can bring this off pretty early in the book and when mixed with multiple threads that have you wondering where good and evil really lie, really makes for a tense and riveting read.

This is sometimes edge of the seat gripping, and sometimes you feel like you’ve pulled all the threads together only to find that Paul Cleave has taken out his scissors and snipped off the ends so you have to regroup and think again.

I loved the way that James’ own story, the one he creates while in his coma is an oasis of calm and sunshine, punctuated by moments of pause. There are gentle echoes of Dean Koontz here but in the best, most original of ways.

The more you invest in these characters, the more Cleave ramps up the heat and the tension until that heart which at the beginning was beating faster is now in the reader’s mouth and the climax is still elusive and yet impending. The Pain Tourist is dark and menacing and will make the reader feel the fear.  It is a book charged with high emotion and with characters that really make an impact, whether for good or ill.

Verdict: A brilliantly executed thrilling, twisty, nerve-shredding serial killer chiller with one hell of a plot. Perfect for fans of Dean Koontz.

Orenda Books                                  Bookshop.org                   Waterstones

Paul Cleave is an award winning author who often divides his time between his home city of Christchurch, New Zealand, where most of his novels are set, and Europe. He’s won the New Zealand Ngaio Marsh Award three times, the Saint-Maur book festival’s crime novel of the year award in France, and has been shortlisted for the Edgar and the Barry in the US and the Ned Kelly in Australia. HIs books have been translated into over twenty languages. He’s thrown his Frisbee in over forty countries, plays tennis badly, golf even worse, and has two cats – which is often two too many. The critically acclaimed The Quiet People was published in 2021, and The Pain Tourist followed in November 2022.

Published by marypicken

Passionate book reader. Love all kind of books from 19th century novels to crime thrillers. My blog is predominantly crime, psychological thrillers and police procedurals with a good helping of literary fiction thrown in.

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