The Pain Tourist
Orenda Books, 10 November 2022
Available as: PB 371pp, e
Source: Advance copy
I'm grateful to Anne at Random Things Tours and to Karen at Orenda Books for sending me an advance copy of The Pain Tourist to consider for review, and for inviting me to join the book's blogtour.
The Pain Tourist plunges into immediate action as a peaceful suburban house in Christchurch, New Zealand is invaded by violent men. In heartbreaking scenes, a family is destroyed and an eleven year old boy left orphaned and struggling for his life. We see the police set about trying to solve the case, but the story then breaks and picks up nine years later as James Garrett begins to stir from a coma. In the faint hope that James may recall something to help identify the villains, even after all this time, DI Rebecca Kent is assigned to investigate.
But Rebecca already has her hands full, with a possible renewed serial killer who seems to be taking more than a little interest in her personally.
How much will she really be able to do?
Meanwhile others are also watching James, wondering what he may recall...
In The Pain Tourist, Cleave gives us an utterly absorbing, accomplished attention-grabber of a novel, one where all the different threads compel and the whole is - well, addictive might be the right word? I adored Rebecca - a woman who's suffered and been passed over and who seems to be surrounded by men judging her performance as a detective based on her looks. Rebecca's ex-colleague Tate is also well drawn and has depth - he plays the part of the off-books maverick well, but not too outrageously as he's got his own concerns (a wife in a nursing home who's steadily deteriorating) to keep him from going too far off the rails. James himself is fascinating - a newly awoken man who was a boy of eleven when he fell asleep. He may have pointers to the crime, but due he go where they are to confront them? Already complicated for him, but he seems as well to have brought something else back from the dark - knowledge that he shouldn't have, which bears on Rebecca's other cases. Dangerous knowledge perhaps.
The story proceeds at great pace with jeopardy, false leads, misdirection and a string of further murders, as well as a nagging suspicion on Rebecca's part that crime scenes and evidence are being accessed by that mysterious "pain tourist" alluded to in the title. What do they want, and how are they getting in? The Pain Tourist also explores the toxic paraphenalia of true crime - the souvenir hunters, the re-enactors, the obsessives...
A gorgeous book - if I can use that phrase of something that is inevitably very dark - one where the cast of characters stride onto the page as established individuals, trailing real dilemmas and problems, flawed and deeply human characters trying to cope as best they can with a far from perfect world - even before the murders start.
This was the first of Cleave's books I'd read and I found it really very, very impressive.
For more information about The Pain Tourist, see the Orenda website here - and of course the other stops on the blogtour which you can see listed on the poster below.