‘A young man wakes from a coma to find himself targeted by the men who killed his parents, while someone is impersonating a notorious New Zealand serial killer … the latest chilling, nerve-shredding, twisty thriller from the author of The Quiet People…‘
– The Pain Tourist
[ Synopsis ]
How do you catch a killer…
When the only evidence is a dream?
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…
[ My Review ]
The Pain Tourist by Paul Cleave was published November 10th by Orenda Books and is described as ‘a nerve-jangling thriller with neck-breaking twists’.
Originality is the word that immediately comes to mind when reading The Pain Tourist. Set in Christchurch in New Zealand, Paul Cleave introduces the reader to the concept of an alternative world, one that exists in the comatose state of a young man. James Garret lies in a coma for nine years. At eleven years of age he was a happy boy living with his parents and older sister Hazel until one night when his whole life changed. Witnessing his parents being fatally shot, the gunman turned on James and took fire. James was left in a very critical state, lying in a coma for years. His sister, Hazel, escaped the family home that night and now visits James regularly in the hope of him waking up some day. When he does, he is twenty years of age and completely traumatised by the news he has to take in. James realises that he left this world as an eleven year old and now is nine years older but lacking the maturity that would be expected from a twenty year old.
James confounds the medical team when he starts to recount where he has been for the last nine years. Circumstances take a very bizarre twist when he mentions things that he should never have known. Is it possible that James holds the key to his parents execution? The killers were never brought to justice and for Theodore Tate, a now retired detective inspector, this was a case that frustrated and stayed with him. When James wakes up, Detective Inspector Rebecca Kent is brought on board to interview him when the time is right. Rebecca is sceptical of what she hears but, as she processes the information, she wonders about the possibility that James’ memories might be the key to finally solving this cold case.
Meanwhile Rebecca is caught up in another investigation into a possible serial killer who has unleashed copycat style executions, based on an notorious murderer that had terrorised Christchurch some years previously. Overwhelmed, she looks to her ex-colleague for assistance and together they embark on an explosive and dangerous hunt for the monsters behind all this horror.
A pain tourist, similar to a grief tourist, is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as ‘someone who visits a place because something bad happened there’. Paul Cleve takes this concept and weaves it through his tale as the various complex investigations cross paths. If I had one bone to pick it would be the repetitive use of two phrases, Coma World and Copy Joe. For some reason I got irritated by it, which is obviously a very personal nit pick, but I did feel the need to mention it as, unfortunately, it did impact my overall experience. The Pain Tourist is a clever tale and, with its short and punchy chapters, it is quite a compulsive read. There is some stretching of the imagination required but I was prepared for that, as the story is so very original.
The Pain Tourist is a smart and fast-paced read with engaging characters and a very unique storyline. It is a book I would recommend to any looking to read a more off-centre thriller, one that definitely encourages conversations around the complexity of our memory.
Paul 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, with The Pain Tourist to follow in 2022.
Twitter ~ @PaulCleave
This sounds really different, Mairéad. Excellent review. I am adding this one to my TBR shelf.
Carla thank you. It’s definitely something different