The Pain Tourist by Paul Cleave

How do you catch a killer…
When the only evidence is a dream?

James Garrett was critically injured when he was shot following his parents’ execution, and no one expected him to waken from a deep, traumatic coma. When he does, nine years later, Detective Inspector Rebecca Kent is tasked with closing the case that her now retired colleague, Theodore Tate, failed to solve all those years ago.

But between that, and hunting for Copy Joe – a murderer on a spree, who’s imitating Christchurch’s most notorious serial killer – she’s going to need Tate’s help. Especially when they learn that James has lived out another life in his nine-year coma, and there are things he couldn’t possibly know, including the fact that Copy Joe isn’t the only serial killer in town…


A brief look in any bookshop and you will soon see how big the thriller genre is! So, to be able to stand out from the crowd in an unusual or good way, to be better than those around you, the book really needs to be remarkably good. The Pain Tourist by Paul Cleave does so because it is clever, intricately plotted and pays attention to the elements that matter, character, setting and story.

So many thrillers are all just about the ‘twist’ in the narrative, the cover literally shouting at you, that you’ll never see the curve ball being thrown at the reader. Sadly, more often than not, you do, that and you end up feeling buffeted by the constant blows as the story twists so often, the story becoming lost in amongst the maelstrom of events. The story too hard to follow, without the aid of some paracetamol and a lie down in a dark room. Here, in The Pain Tourist, the twists and turns that are a staple part of the thriller genre are used sparingly and as a result have far more impact. The drama becoming subtle, intricately woven into the story and not dominating it. God, how I loved that, that feeling that you just have to read one more chapter, than one more, because you are drawn in, so involved that sleep becomes a luxury and not a necessity. Paul Cleave for me understands that less is more and uses that with such skill, you really don’t see as he leads you down a one-way street, forcing you then to do an about turn, leaving previous assumptions behind you.

The story contains multiple threads, which if they are to work, need to be woven together perfectly, or it all unravels into an impregnable mess. To me they worked utterly and by the end, it felt that I was looking at the literary equivalent of one of my grandmother’s pieces of embroidery, where you could never tell the difference between the back and the front, so great was her skill and talent. In The Pain Tourist we have three stories running side by side, with multiple characters connecting them. James Garret and his parent’s murders, a copycat killer whose thirst for fame and notoriety bring terror to Christchurch and a killer who has stalked the women of this city while hiding in plain sight. At no point does it become confused, start to unravel or lose its way! Perfection as far as I am concerned.

The characters are brilliant, so much so I hope and pray this is not the last we hear of them. Detective Inspector Rebecca Kent and former police officer Theodore Tate are like all of us flawed, but at their very core, they are good people. Good people make mistakes, are even capable of actions many of us would find it difficult to imagine doing ourselves, but that is where the author pull out his ace card, he shows that under the right circumstances, any person can do things out of desperation, self-preservation, even from a place of pain and revenge. He plays off the more law-abiding Kent against Tate, whose past has created a more fluid character, whose pain and addictive nature makes him more capable of straying from the ‘acceptable’ path, because he reacts to the pull of the darker side of his nature.

This a novel from the pen of an author whose books don’t need statements such as ‘you will never see the twist coming’ flashing from the front cover, his writing speaks for itself. It is superb and you really need to add it to your book collection, thriller reader or not, because words are used as weapons, not stickers and endless hackneyed over used phrases stuck to the front cover.

You can purchase this novel directly from the publisher Orenda Books. From Waterstones and Amazon or from your local independent bookshop!

About the author

Paul is an award winning author who often divides his time between his home city of Christchurch, New Zealand, where most of his novels are set, and Europe. He’s won the New Zealand Ngaio Marsh Award three times, the Saint-Maur book festival’s crime novel of the year award in France, and has been shortlisted for the Edgar and the Barry in the US and the Ned Kelly in Australia. HIs books have been translated into over twenty languages. He’s thrown his Frisbee in over forty countries, plays tennis badly, golf even worse, and has two cats – which is often two too many. The critically acclaimed The Quiet People was published in 2021, with The Pain Tourist to follow in 2022.

Dawnlands by Philippa Gregory

In a divided country, power and loyalty conquer all…

It is 1685 and England is on the brink of a renewed civil war against the Stuart kings with many families bitterly divided. Alinor, now a successful businesswoman, has been coaxed by the manipulative Livia to save Queen Mary from the coming siege. The rewards are life-changing: the family could return to their beloved Tidelands, and Alinor could rule where she was once lower than a servant.

Inspired by news of a rebellion against the Stuart kings, Ned Ferryman returns from America with his Pokanoket servant to join the uprising against roman catholic King James. As Ned swears loyalty to the charismatic Duke of Monmouth, he discovers a new and unexpected love

Meanwhile, Queen Mary summons her friend Livia to a terrified court. Her survival, and that of the Stuart kings, is in the balance, and only a clever and dangerous gamble can save them…

A compelling and powerful story of political intrigue and personal ambition, set between the palaces of London, the tidelands of Fowlmire and the shores of Barbados.


When picking up a Philippa Gregory novel you know you are going to be guaranteed a thrilling story, beautifully researched and inhabited by a cast of characters that feel so real, you could walk into their world, becoming part of their story.  It is no mean feat given the phalera of books set in this period, to be able to stand above the crowd as Dawnlands does, because it is written by an experienced storyteller who knows how to deliver a first class read, an intelligent story that had me gripped throughout. 

Within it we have a group of characters, both men and women who haven’t been altered to fit modern conceptions but reflect their world and its attitudes, as well as its social norms. From the King and his failed attempt to return his country to the ‘true faith’, to his Queen, her lady in waiting and a runaway slave. She elevates the women, so the story revolves around them, including the charismatic Livia, whose machinations behind the scenes, reflect the way women had to learn to circumvent the control of men, to get their own way.  She is for me the most compelling character in the book, ruthless in her search for power and wealth, because for her and many other women, the only way to avoid destitution was to take what she needed. As a character she is a masterpiece, her actions are cruel, she manipulates those around her and yet, I can understand why she acts as she does, even if I dislike her behavior. She stands out as a woman whose charisma and intelligence, makes her a character that can hold a novel, just as well as a ‘strong male lead’ and frankly, her manipulation of those around her, proves that you don’t need a traditional male ‘villain’. Other fabulous characters are found within the pages of Dawnlands. This evocative portrayal of women in the 17th Century contains characters both bad and good, given it a feeling of an ensemble cast, with more than one lead. Including the proud runaway native American Indian Raven, who acts a counterpoint to Livia. For she is loyal, yet they share some characteristics, the difference being that Raven uses her intelligence to help those she cares for, her pride to stop the actions of men from killing her and her determination to survive, not at a cost to others as Livia does, but to find that which others stole from her.

The narrative takes us from the coast of America to England and Barbados and yet it still feels like an intimate story of a group of characters, rather than an epic where story is swamped by location. We are drawn to the wharves of London and its burgeoning trade with the world opening up around them and where we meet Alinor, finding ourselves drawn into their world of trade and survival, running from a past full of poverty. Then in the next moment, we are in the court of the King, where religion and the succession dominate a court riven with secrets and terrible jealousies, where love comes at a cost and the fate of the kingdom resides. The excitement for the reader, coming from never knowing if the characters they have come to love, will survive a world, once again torn apart by religion and a people hungry to be free from the control of Rome once again. It is the beginning of a saga, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

You can buy this novel from Waterstones, Amazon and all good independent bookshops.

About the author.

PHILIPPA GREGORY is one of the world’s foremost historical novelists. She wrote her first ever novel, Wideacre, when she was completing her PhD in eighteenth-century literature and it sold worldwide, heralding a new era for historical fiction.    Her flair for blending history and imagination developed into a signature style and Philippa went on to write many bestselling novels, including The Other Boleyn Girl and The White Queen.    Now a recognised authority on women’s history, Philippa graduated from the University of Sussex and received a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, where she is a Regent and was made Alumna of the Year in 2009. She holds honorary degrees from Teesside University and the University of Sussex. She is a fellow of the Universities of Sussex and Cardiff and an honorary research fellow at Birkbeck University of London.  Philippa is a member of the Society of Authors and in 2016 was presented with the Outstanding Contribution to Historical Fiction Award by the Historical Writers’ Association. In 2018, she was awarded an Honorary Platinum Award by Neilsen for achieving significant lifetime sales across her entire book output.   She welcomes visitors to her site

Havana Fever by Leonardo Padura

Havana, 2003, fourteen years since Mario Conde retired from the police force and much has changed in Cuba. He now makes a living trading in antique books bought from families selling off their libraries in order to survive. In the house of Alcides de Montes de Oca, a rich Cuban who fled after the fall of Batista, Conde discovers an extraordinary book collection and, buried therein, a newspaper article about Violeta del Rio, a beautiful bolero singer of the 1950’s, who disappeared mysteriously. Conde’s intuition sets him off on an investigation that leads him into a darker Cuba, now flooded with dollars, populated by pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers and other hunters of the night. But this novel also allows Padura to evoke the Havana of Batista, the
city of a hundred night clubs where Marlon Brando and Josephine Baker listened to boleros, mambos and jazz. Probably Padura’s best book, Havana Fever is many things: a suspenseful crime novel, a cruel family saga and an ode to literature and his beloved, ravaged island.


Havana Fever by Leonardo Padura is the story of former detective Mario Conde, whose passion for books leads him to investigate two murders linked by ghosts from the past. 

This is best described as a slow burn, the story evolving within a very character driven narrative.  If you enjoy books that read like a ride on a helter-skelter than this book is probably not for you, because this is story where character and landscape are predominant. So perfectly written that you feel that you are walking the streets of Havana with Detective Condo. The shape of the landscape helping to form both Condo’s character and the story itself.  It not only defines those that live within the story, but defines the life they live. Condo and others who live on the island of Cuba are isolated from the world around them and live daily on the brink of poverty and starvation, making total sense of this tale of people so desperate to escape grinding poverty that they will kill to protect honour, life and liberty.   The sense of isolation heightens sense of claustrophobia, created not just by the island setting, but by Cuba’s fractured links not just with the world around it, but between those that live on it’s shores.  The writer using it to show that unity and balance are out of kilter, driving those already desperate, to kill characters, that threaten their very survival. It all feels contained, in that the narrative is never left to the vagaries of endless twists and turns, but simmers slowly like the heat of the Cuban landscape, the pressure growing slowly, violence is always present, often in the background, other times it is so present that it adds an added layer of tension to the simmering violence always sat there in the background.

The characterization is really good. Detective Condo and a wealth of flamboyant supporting characters reflect the multi-cultural nature of Havana and the melting pot created from such a passionate and colourful culture. Condo himself comes across as caring, passionate and troubled, yet he always thinks of his friends, no matter how much money he has. It makes him very loveable, and I found myself enjoying the book because I like this character so much.  I loved how clever he is, but how the writer created a much more rounded character by showing that his passion to know the truth sometimes blinds him to the faults in others. He is a strong enough character to hold this story together and made me as a reader want to emerge myself in the story.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon and Waterstones

About the author

Leonardo Padura was born in 1955 in Havana and lives in Cuba. He is a novelist, essayist, journalist and scriptwriter. Havana Fever has been published in Cuba, Mexico, Spain, Portugal, Germany and France.

My Wonderful Reading Year – October 2022 – The Journey Continues.

How is it October again? The year just seems to be whizzing by! It’s that time of year, where a good book and a cup of coffee snuggled up in bed, are the perfect way to pass the time. I prefer a night with my book to watching the TV and this year I have some fantastic novels to read during the winter months. I actually look forward to cwtching up under the duvet cover if a book is really good and I’m lucky to say, that it is rarely that a book disappoints me. So here we go, with the titles I read in October 2022!

First up are the book I read from my rather high to be read pile.

The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary

I have been a big fan of Beth O’Leary since I read The Flat Share. The Road Trip is just as good. I love how the author continues to tackle quite serious subjects and yet keep both the writing and story very accessible. You know you are dealing with a story about some of societies darkest subjects, yet you don’t feel crushed by them. The Road Trip delves into the lives of some mismatched individuals and tackles the issues that cause their relationships to fracture. But her writing always offers some hope of a better life, as with this novel and that is why I love her writing so much.

This Much Is True by Miriam Margolyes

I love Miriam Margolyes the women and the actress, so I bought her autobiography knowing I would love it and I did. She is wise, witty, and formidable and this comes across in the book; with such a strong personality that you hear her voice as you read. I know some find her rude, but I don’t, she is who she is and she doesn’t apologize for it and I admire her for this.

The Anomaly by Herve Le Tellier

This absolutely fascinating novel was the book of choice for the book club I am a member of. It is extremely clever and beautifully written, though I admit I struggled at first, I came to love it by the end. What intrigued me the most was that it was a book within a book or was it? That it had stories within stories and was handled with care by the writer. In lesser hands it could have been a mess, but it wasn’t, it was mind-bending and the perfect choice for a book club discussion.

The Boy With The Topknot by Sathnam Sanghera

The last of the books I read this month from my own to be read pile was the very moving and on times funny The Boy With The Topknot by Sathnam Sanghera. The author tells of his life and the secret that sat at the heart of his family, but which he knew nothing of until the age of twenty-four. He takes us into the world he grew up in, that shaped the man he became, but also left him living in a half-way house between the world of his immigrant parents and his life as a western man. It is one of the best books I have read this year.

Now the books I read to review as part of blog tours, or at the request of authors.

Dark Horses Ride by Lisa Edwards

This is a book about one women’s journey into middle life and the menopause. It is beautifully written, startlingly honest and most remarkably of all, not written with the soul aim of reaching the top of the best sellers list, though it deserves to, but to show others through her own journey, that by excepting ourselves we can live are far, far richer lives.

Havana Fever by Leonardo Padura

Having visited Cuba many years ago, though Havana for only a few hours, I was eager to read and review this fascinating novel. It is full of atmosphere, so much so you feel as if you are walking the streets of this fabulous island. The story is a slow burner, but that suits the narrative and allows you to absorb the world of Mario Conde.

Well, that was October 2022. I love that I really had a good balance between review reads and my own books and I hope to keep that up in November. Though I do have some rather wonderful review books coming up to!