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.


One thought on “The Pain Tourist by Paul Cleave

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s