SPHERE OUT 29 December
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.