The Pain Tourist by Paul Cleave

Today it is my absolute pleasure to share my thoughts on The Pain Tourist, the brand new thriller from Paul Cleave. A huge thank you to Orenda Books for the advance copy of the book, and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the tour invite. Here’s what the book is all about:

Source: Advance Reader Copy
Release Date: 10 November 2022
Publisher: Orenda Books

About the Book

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 Thoughts

I think you could happily agree that it’s a mark of a good book when, as a reader, I don’t even bother to wait to get to the end of the story to head off and try and track down the author’s back titles. That is exactly what happened at about the 30% mark of The Pain Tourist by Paul Cleave. It’s a book which really hits the ground running in terms of tension and suspense, putting readers on edge from the very opening chapter, and giving us very little chance to relax until we hit that very last page.

The Pain Tourist is the kind of book that causes sleep depravation. Not because it is unnecessarily gruesome or scary, but just because it is so damned addictive you will struggle to put the book down. I tried, in vain, to kid myself I could stick to that ‘one more chapter’ resolution, but after my tenth ‘just one more’ moment, I stopped lying to myself and read right to the end. Yes, I was tired the next day, but by god, it was worth it.

This is the story of a home invasion gone wrong. Wrong house, wrong family, absolutely devastating result. At least … it is in part. That in itself is pretty terrifying prospect, and whilst the scenes are not especially graphic, they are intense enough to elicit a real reaction out of you – one of shock in the first part and an absolute hunger for more in the second. I say, it is about a home invasion in part, as that is only one element of the story, one which draws former Detective Theodore Tate right into the heart of the story, with a desire to close the one case that eluded him and his partner nine years earlier.

This part of the story, the way in which James Garret life, and that of his sister, are changed irrevocably, becomes quite emotional, and in some respects seems almost unbelievable and out of keeping with the serious nature of the murder investigation which dominates the remainder of the novel. I loved the slightly off-kilter angle that Paul Cleave uses to present James’ story, and how he examines that whole series of unknowns about patients in a come – what they do and don’t hear and understand. But it is so carefully woven into the plot, James story established so slowly and in such an empathetic way, that it was impossible not to become invested in James’ future and, ultimately, his safety.

A significant part of the book is given over to the murder investigation that Detective Rebecca Kent is tasked with solving, one which bears all the hallmarks of one of the author’s most notorious characters (and one of the key reasons I sought out his other titles so quickly). You don’t need to read the other series – and there are two of them, one following Tate and one this particular miscreant, but I suppose if you want absolute secrecy over what is to possibly come in this book, you may want to start the other books first. I didn’t and I had no issues keeping up with what was going on and who the other characters were. I think long terms fans will be very happy, newcomers, like me, quite content to join in here and catch up later. It’s a self contained story with echoes of the past, but one that really did intrigue me enough to want to see what I have missed.

The book is packed with tension, with characters who make the blood boil, warm the heart and ultimately pull at the heart strings. I became invested in both Detectives and victims very quickly. Paul Cleave is a master at creating an atmosphere which keeps you on edge but also draws you deeper into the mystery. I had plenty of assumptions about the who, what and where of all of the separate threads, but remained surprised throughout, with the author managing to hide the bad guys in plain sight. There is much sleight of hand, high levels of misdirection, but also a trend which really makes me worry a touch about law and order in New Zealand … 🤔

There is a third story to be investigated, one that is drawn from part of James Garrett’s amazing story and which Kent engages Tate’s involvement in to resolve. I loved the way in which all three investigations intersect, the way that they inform and disrupt each other, but also the sense of everything building to a crescendo with each and every page turn. And what a crescendo it it. Just when you think it is safe to take a breath, Paul Cleave throws in another grenade or two, taking us, and his characters, right to the limit, the stories reaching such a dramatic climax that it keeps the pulse banging out a very fast pace.

Everything about this book worked. It left me with a real smile on my face at the end, even if some things may have not reached the conclusion I might have expected. But it was the one that fit the book. Echoed the undulating and unceasing tension and uncertainty which makes this such an addictive read.

Tense, suspenseful, emotional and jam-packed with unforgettable characters, whether you are a fan of the author’s earlier series, or brand new to the team, this book is most definitely recommended. Everything I look for in a book and so much more. And most certainly a red hot, sleep stealing, pulse pounding read.

About the Author

Paul Cleave is currently dividing his time between his home city of Christchurch, New Zealand, where all of his novels are set, and Europe, where none of his novels are set. His novels have been translated into over twenty languages. He has won the Saint-Maur book festival’s crime novel of the year in France, has been shortlisted for the Ned Kelly award, the Edgar Award, the Barry Award, and has won the Ngaio Marsh award for NZ crime fiction three times.

The New Zealand Listener said that Cleave writes with ‘an energy that conventional crime novels lack’, and he has been called ‘the next Stephen King’, ‘a rising star of the genre’ and ‘a writer to watch’. Publishers Weekly have said ‘a pulse-pounding serial killer thriller. The city of Christchurch becomes a modern equivalent of James Ellroy’s Los Angeles of the 1950s, a discordant symphony of violence and human weakness… the book’s real power lies in the complexity of its characters,’, and Cleave numbers among his fans top crime and thriller writers such as Mark Billingham, who wrote: ‘Most people come back from New Zealand talking about the breathtaking scenery and the amazing experiences. I came back raving about Paul Cleave.’

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