‘The Pain Tourist’ by Paul Cleave: book review

The Pain Tourist not my usual reading fare. It was sent to me by independent publisher Orenda Books after I reviewed two other books for them—two of my favorite books of the year, The A book about Daves and The rabbit factor. The Pain Tourist is a crime novel and a bit darker than most of the books I review on GeekDad. Regardless, it is well drawn and convincing.

What is it The Pain Tourist?

The term “pain tourist” is used in the book to describe someone who visits other people’s misery. Appearing at the places of horror scenes, enjoying the details on social networks – a morbid fascination dressed up as empathy. And so it is with the central mystery in The Pain Tourist.

There are many threads woven into the plot. Some are skillfully hidden, they are revealed only as we travel through the story. We begin with two central mysteries, which begin with a burglary gone wrong. The Garrett family was slaughtered. The only survivor who walks is a teenage girl whose parents were killed and her brother trapped in a coma for many years. The opening scene of the murders is intense and dark, setting the tone for the rest of the novel.

The second thread of the novel follows a copycat serial killer. (I have a feeling that the original serial killers may have been the subject of a previous book, but I have no idea if that was the case.) Joe Middleton went on a killing spree, but was never caught. He’s on the run and an infamous legend, with podcasts, blogs and a bunch of internet frenzies dedicated to him. Now someone else has broken into one of the original crime scenes and staged a copy of the murder with fresh victims. Judging by the way the crime scene was left, this is a new killer—one who knows crime scenes in detail.

Shortly into the novel, James Garrett wakes up from a coma. While he was in that coma, he internally built a whole story about how his life was going. He wakes up to find that what he thought was his existence was only a real dream. However, as the doctors and police talk to him, they discover that James has assimilated real-world events into his dream state. With the original killers of James and Hazel’s parents still at large, the situation must be handled carefully. If the killers think James might remember something that gives away their identity, they might come back to finish the job.

Why read The Pain Tourist?

If you can happily accept James’ amazing recovery from a coma and the fact that his eidetic memory allowed him to create a dream state where he could assimilate real-world events, there is much to enjoy in this book. This “if” is quite a big one. The novel’s central conceit adds credibility, but it never cracked it for me.

There is nothing overly outrageous about the clues James has collected. Rather than pointing fingers at the identity of a serial killer, it allows detectives on the case to see a particular interaction in a different way. One, which gives them a new impetus in the previous line of research. The line that brings the third series of crime detection.

The Pain Tourist rattling along at breakneck speed. Every thread of the novel is reversed. There is depth to each, and you desperately want to know how each will come true. There are hints in the text, but there are also some big misconceptions.

This is the first outstanding crime novel I’ve read in a while, and it reminded me of everything I enjoyed about the genre. I don’t like my crime novels too violent and, although the themes of the novels are quite dark, I didn’t find their violence gratuitous or exploitative.

The book’s central detectives are Inspector Rebecca Kent, still in the force, and retired detective Theodore Tate. They work well together; both have histories that again made me wonder if there were earlier novels I should pick up. Tate is a man haunted by years of service and personal tragedy. His tenacity and willingness to break the rules are something of a cliché in crime writer circles, but I find him an attractive character. I have enjoyed Michael Connelly’s novels for years, and there is something of Hieronymus Bosch in Theodore Tate.

The Pain Tourist it was a solid crime read that I skimmed through, eager to know how it would all play out. You have to suspend your disbelief a bit, but Paul Cleave’s plot is well worth enjoying. If you do, you’ll be treated to three well-planned mysteries that lead to a thrilling conclusion. This may have been the first Cleave book I’ve read, but I highly doubt it will be the last.

If you want to download a copy The Pain Tourist, you can do it here in the US and here in the UK.

If you liked this review, check out my other reviews here.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in order to write this review.

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