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Monday 16 January 2017

‘Painkiller’ by N. J. Fountain

Published by Sphere,
29 December 2016. 
ISBN: 978-0-75156-121-0 (PBO)

Monica Wood wakes up with her Angry Friend every day - the constant neuropathic pain she's suffered since an accident five years earlier. She's in agony, but copes the best she can.

She finds a suicide note in her own writing and begins to question everything. She has no memory of the note, nor any clear idea of what has been happening over the years she's been in pain due to the strong drugs she's taking. Her days pass in a medicated haze while she is cared for by her husband, Dominic.

From the start of N. J. Fountain's Painkiller, we are plunged into Monica's world of unending pain and unreliable memory.

Gradually we learn she had been a high-flying theatrical agent, had been in love with her husband and wanted a baby, but everything changed with the accident.

Painkiller is told mainly from Monica's point of view, and in the short chapters we gradually learn about her and see her relationship with her best friend Angelina, her former client-turned-osteopath Niall, and, of course, Dominic. We find out about the woman she used to be and the woman the pain has turned her into. All the time we get closer and closer to finding out about the circumstances surrounding her accident.

Right from the start of the book, when Monica wakes up with her Angry Friend and finds the suicide note, there is a sense of dark foreboding. Monica's memory is fragmented, and it is through those fragments we begin to piece together what happened on the day of the accident. Painkiller is full of twists, turns and misdirection. Then, just as you think you've got it sorted, another twist sends you careering another way. The final climax is thrilling and unexpected.

As well as being a masterful psychological thriller, N. J. Fountain opened my eyes to the world of those who suffer chronic pain day in, day out.

When I started to read Painkiller I thought yes, I’m going to love this one. I was right.
Reviewer: Mary-Jane Riley

NJ Fountain is an award-winning comedy writer, chiefly known for his work on the radio and television show Dead Ringers. He has also contributed to programmes such as Have I Got News For You, 2DTV and the children’s sitcom Scoop. He also writes for Private Eye.

Mary-Jane Riley wrote her first story on her newly acquired blue Petite typewriter. She was eight. It was about a gang of children who had adventures on mysterious islands, but she soon realised Enid Blyton had cornered that particular market. So she wrote about the Wild West instead. When she grew up she had to earn a living, and became a BBC radio talk show presenter and journalist. She has covered many life-affirming stories, but also some of the darkest events of the past two decades.
Then, in true journalistic style, she decided not to let the facts get in the way of a good story and got creative. She wrote for women's magazines and small presses. She formed WriteOutLoud with two writer friends to help charities get their message across using their life stories. Now she is writing psychological suspense, drawing on her experiences in journalism. The Bad Things by Mary-Jane Riley was published by Harper Collins/Killer Reads. Her second book, After She Fell, also published by Killer Reads, is out on April 28th. In her spare time Mary-Jane likes to walk the dog and eat a lot. Good job she likes walking.

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