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, Five Star Reads

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

Psychological Thriller  5*'s
Psychological Thriller

The first thing to say about this book is it didn’t deserve to be endlessly moved down the TBR pile and for once I concede that the hype was well-deserved.

Told in the first part by Nick in the aftermath of his wife Amy’s disappearance on their fifth wedding anniversary and excerpts from her diary kept throughout the entire time of their relationship. I love novels narrated in this way and Gillian Flynn handles the device with extra special depth; if you are anything like me your heart will drop as revelations are made. As the reader I found myself constantly revising what I’d believed from earlier sections in the book as the layers of truth were expertly peeled away, no single bomb-shell for this book rather a series of explosions.

The second part tells a totally different story, again in two parts which speeds up the pace whilst moving the story to a whole new level and a faster pace… But unfortunately I can’t say anymore without ruining this book for anyone who hasn’t read this yet.

I love a book with twists and turns but I think it is Gillian Flynn’s ability to absolutely capture the truth about the way men and women see relationships when Amy lays on her yearly treasure hunt for his anniversary present Nick just knows that he isn’t going to have remembered the key moments which meant so much to her let alone unravel her cryptic clues; after all Nick thought he had married a cool girl, one who likes all the same thing as men and is great in bed too!

For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men — friends, coworkers, strangers — giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them.”

Amy describes what she calls the dancing monkeys who dance to the wife and girlfriends every whim

“Wear this, don’t wear that. Do this chore now and do this chore when you get a chance and by that I mean now. And definitely, definitely give up the things you love for me, so I will have proof that you love me best. It’s the female pissing contest — as we swan around our book clubs and our cocktail hours, there are few things women love more than being able to detail the sacrifices our men make for us.

A call-and-response, the response being: “Ohh, that’s so sweet.”

Whilst Nick forced to reflect on what their relationship really meant concluded

“Worse, I convinced myself our tragedy was entirely her making. I spent years working myself into the very thing I swore she was: a righteous ball of hate.”

I still haven’t made up my mind what I feel about how this book finishes, the end crept up and surprised me which I always find disconcerting. On reflection I think the ending was fitting even though it didn’t end the way I prefer.

So I recommend this book that is not only a great read but one that can make you reflect on the nature of relationships both familial and romantic whilst trying to figure out who did what to whom and what it would like to be face to face with a sociopath!

I didn’t start reading this book at the right time, it didn’t deserve short reads, sandwiched between work, parties and Christmas shopping. As the book progressed I became resentful of all the sociable activities and went to sleep at nights longing to know what was going to happen next while reflecting on the few pages I’d managed to squeeze into a busy day but I managed to steal enough time (when everyone was sleeping) to finish the book off. This to me is a measure of a brilliant book, yes I love reading but I can usually put a book to one side for ‘real’ activities…… and even better this book is currently only 99p which is an absolute bargain.

Gone Girl – Amazon UK