PAINKILLER

SPHERE OUT 29 De­cem­ber

Crime Scene - - POST MORTEM - BY N.J. FOUN­TAIN By MARK BEAU­MONT

Mon­ica Wood lives a life of tor­ment, as she’s been left with con­stant and de­bil­i­tat­ing neu­ro­pathic pain af­ter be­ing pushed down some hospi­tal stairs by an un­known as­sailant. Her con­di­tion and the as­so­ci­ated drug treat­ments also cloud Wood’s mem­ory of ev­ery­thing since the in­ci­dent. Hand­ily, plot-wise, this al­lows Foun­tain, in his de­but psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller, to weave plenty of hazy in­trigue and red her­rings around a sui­cide note which she can’t re­call writ­ing and Wood’s dawn­ing sus­pi­cion that her hus­band, Do­minic, is plot­ting to mur­der her.

Painkiller falls foul of many pit­falls which af­flict de­but nov­els. Foun­tain mis­takes reg­u­lar men­tions of Mon­ica’s breasts for ‘fe­male per­spec­tive’ and a bath­room scene for ‘gritty re­al­ism’. Both prose and di­a­logue of­ten clunk like bricks down a stair­well, al­though any ap­pear­ance by Mon­ica’s cru­elly witty artist friend, An­gelina, makes for a vi­va­cious few pages.

Whereas most crime nov­els chron­i­cle pain in short, sharp bursts, here it’s a re­lent­less, of­ten tir­ing fug which weighs down the nar­ra­tive. In ad­di­tion, the twist at the end, if you think about it, ren­ders much of the ac­tion im­plau­si­ble. But go with it and there’s an en­tic­ing, neatly twist­ing yarn here, cul­mi­nat­ing in a fi­nal act of which at last a strand or two is surely unguess­able.

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