Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Painkiller – N.J. Fountain

Psychological Thriller 4*s
Psychological Thriller

Now I’m going to be honest, I received this book unsolicited and on reading the synopsis wasn’t really sure that I wanted to read about a woman in constant pain. That might sound harsh but I don’t think I’m alone in avoiding books about unsolvable problems, especially not ones which I’d rather not contemplate. In the interest of fairness, I picked up the book to read the first few pages…

Monica Wood is awake in the spare room with her ‘angry friend’, the constant pain she suffers, when she finds a suicide note, written by herself some four years previously. She has no memory of the note or the events leading up to it because the medication she takes to control the pain have wiped parts of her memory, what is left is often completely out of her grasp. In the morning she shows the note to her devoted husband Dominic who agrees that she wrote it, and then on her bidding throws it away.

Still unsure I read a little further and reading the oh so accurate sounding descriptions not only of the pain, but the effect it has on Monica’s life had me hooked, well that and wanting to know what the accident was that had caused the pain in the first place and the mystery around the suicide note.

N.J. Fountain has created a world where it is impossible to grasp exactly what has happened due to Monica’s pain but nevertheless this is a world I wanted to understand. There is a deep sense of foreboding from that first page and it is that feeling that had me sucked deeper into this woman’s world. Monica hadn’t always been in pain, five years previously she had been an agent for actors and the grit and determination that got her there, shine through from time to time. This stops the book being as utterly depressing as I had feared when I was contemplating putting it to one side.

With the book being focussed, as is Monica, on pain it is unsurprising that there are doctors to meet, one of my favourite scenes is where Monica summed up their attitude, with their unrelenting positivity and the feeling that the patient should not spoil their act, so become some sort of stand-up act to keep the dialogue moving. I’ve sat in that very position at times, and have wondered what came over me.

The short chapters, living with Monica as she discovers new things about herself, as she grapples over the scene of her accident and watching her interactions with her best friend Angelina, her osteopath Niall and her husband Dominic we get to build a picture up of both the woman she once was, and the one she is now – where the two versions of Monica meet is part of the puzzle.

This is one of those books that begs to be read in as few possible sittings as possible as befits a certain type of psychological fiction. This has the dual effect of immersing you in a different world, one that is full of suspicion, apprehension and unpredictable events and letting yourself roll with the story, and what a story it is! The plot is convoluted full of misdirection and red herrings, just the way I like my psychological thrillers and while the ending isn’t totally unbelievable, it did take a small hop of faith to go with it. That said, I didn’t see it coming and I couldn’t help but be impressed by the dexterity of pulling everything that had gone before, together.

I’d like to thank the publishers Little Brown UK for sending me a copy of Painkiler, this review is my thank you to them. If you enjoyed Before I Go To Sleep, I think you’ll enjoy this book, the same feeling of intrigue and dread pervaded both books.

First Published UK: 29 December 2016
Publisher: Little Brown UK
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Last Thing I Remember – Deborah Bee

Psychological Thriller 4*s
Psychological Thriller

The first thing I have to say about this book is it is hard to believe how entertaining a narrative can be when ‘spoken’ by a woman in a coma!

Sarah is in a coma, unable to communicate at all, lying in her bed listening, in part to the conversation going on around her. Her mother and her father visit and we can tell so much about them through their snippets of conversation. Likewise the nurses, some are more solicitous than others but the real mystery is, how did Sarah end up lying there, in that state? Sarah was mugged, she was in the wrong place at the wrong time that’s what everyone says.

We first meet Kelly sat waiting for her mother in the relatives room on the night that Sarah is admitted. Her mother has gone to check on her younger brother and she sits, observing the other inhabitants of the waiting room. Kelly is a teenage girl who has been befriended by Sarah, a young woman closer in age to her mother than Kelly. From Kelly we know that Sarah has been giving her tips on how to stay out of trouble, and it seems to be working… or is it?

This is a really hard book to review, so much of what I want to say will reveal the story that it is far better you explore for yourself. What I can say is it is far more moving, and less dramatic, than many books that fall into this genre. This is psychological fiction at its purest a book that reveals the secrets behind many of our characters, how they relate to others, how they present themselves to the wider world and what other people really see them for.

The other side to this book is it is scary! No-one wants to be in such a vulnerable position and Sarah is in a state where she longs to break out of her coma and communicate with those around her. She wants to know who she is, how she got there and who some of her visitors are. This isn’t an enviable place to be especially when some of what she hears causes her intense fear.

Deborah Bee has writes in an appealing style with alternate chapters narrated by Sarah and Kelly. Kelly spends many days at the hospital, coming to terms with her friend’s fragile state, yet shoved to one side when the family are in place, watching and waiting for any sign of movement whilst struggling with varying degrees of discomfort while speaking to someone who doesn’t respond at all.

This is a unique read, not quite what I expected but in many way so much better. I didn’t expect to feel so moved by both narrator’s lives and although I guessed some of the final outcome I was far from correct on many of the finer details.
I was offered my copy of The Last Thing I Remember from Midas PR who work on behalf of Twenty7 books, which if you haven’t heard before, are my favourite new publishers, I’ve now read four of their books and loved them all. It is good to see such talented debut novelists having a dedicated platform to launch from and from a reader’s perspective, all of these books have something unique to offer, a rare thing indeed in such a crowded genre.

The Last Thing I Remember was published on 25 February 2016 in eBook format with the paperback due out on 28 July 2016.