Thursday, 29 December 2016

Painkiller by NJ Fountain

review by Maryom

Since an accident five years ago, Monica has been in almost constant, unbearable pain. Each day she wakes up not knowing what to expect - will this be a rare 'good' day when her pain is manageable enough for her to get up, go out, live a semblance of normal life, or one of the far more frequent days when, despite the cocktail of painkillers, she ends up lying flat on her back all day, her mind made hazy by the drugs, afraid that any movement will cause agony?   One night, kept awake by pain, and looking for something to distract her, Monica finds a letter hidden away - a suicide note she'd written years before when her pain was too bad to cope with. But something doesn't ring true about it; despite her unceasing pain, despite the tricks high doses of painkillers have played with her memory, despite the handwriting appearing to be hers, despite everything her husband Dominic says, Monica finds it impossible to believe she would ever really have contemplated taking her own life. Is someone trying to mess with her mind? or maybe her seemingly loving husband, Dominic, isn't quite as caring and patient as he appears, and has been planning to kill her?

You've probably guessed, from the ambiguous title alone, that Painkiller is a tense psychological thriller with a woman fearing that someone close to her is threatening her life. It starts well, told mainly from Monica's point of view, capturing her constant pain and her equally strong determination to fight it, however she can, and of course the reader is expecting the first step of a psychological thriller - the revelation that not everything is quite as Monica believes.  Perhaps because of that, I found the middle third moved a little slowly for a thriller - it explores Monica's condition more though, and makes both it and the affects of the drugs things the reader can begin to understand. The end speeds up again, with revelations and twists coming thick and fast as the story reaches its climax.

There are definitely echoes of SJ Watson's Before I Go To Sleep, with the plot depending on huge gaps in the narrator's memory, but it's in no way a copy-cat retelling. If Watson had written this as his second book, I'd have been disappointed; as it is, in a different author's hands there's no feeling of re-visiting the same material. It's gripping, well-plotted, and that ideal thriller - a book you won't want to put down.

Maryom's Review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Sphere 
Genre - adult psychological thriller

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