Painkiller by N. J. Fountain

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About the Book

I cannot go on like this. I feel such a burden to you. You are young and can start again. You deserve that chance. By the time you read this I will be dead. Do not grieve for me, for I am now without pain.

Yours truly for ever,
Monica
Monica suffers from chronic neuropathic pain. Every second of her life is spent in agony, and she is coping with it the best she can. However, there are whole years of her life which are a blur to her.
But when she finds a suicide note, written in her handwriting, she begins to question everything. She has no memory of writing it – so who did? And if someone tried to kill her once, what’s to say they won’t try again . . .

My Review

The blurb on the cover states that this book is likened to Before I Go To Sleep and for once it is accurate. Monica, the main character is a very unreliable narrator. She is in constant pain and takes a cocktail of drugs to try and ease it. The side effects from the drugs cause memory problems, mood swings, depression and hallucinations. All these make it difficult to work out if she is believable. By her own admission, she wasn’t a very nice person before the accident, she could be cruel to her husband and even after she was critical about his appearance and career. But he seemed to accept it and at times they did seem close. I liked the conversations she had with him when each encouraged the other to hang up first.
Her husband, a friend and a detective also tell their version of events. These make you doubt more about what is happening. All views differed and I had no idea who could be believed.
I found it a quick and easy read, despite reading about Monica’s constant pain which was a little draining at times. I wouldn’t have liked her before her accident but I found her to be determined person who was desperate to beat the pain. Each chapter was short and intriguing enough to read another. I had no idea which way was going to go and even though the culprit wasn’t a surprise the ending was a bit of a shock.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

Beneath the Ashes by Jane Isaac.

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About the Book

The floor felt hard beneath her face. Nancy opened her eyes. Blinked several times. A pain seared through her head. She could feel fluid. No. She was lying in fluid.
When a body is discovered in a burnt-out barn in the Warwickshire countryside, DI Will Jackman is called to investigate.
Nancy Faraday wakes up on the kitchen floor. The house has been broken into and her boyfriend is missing. As the case unravels, DI Jackman realises that nothing is quite as it appears and everyone, it seems, has a secret.
Can he discover the truth behind the body in the fire, and track down the killer before Nancy becomes the next victim?

My Review

Beneath the Ashes is the second book to feature Will Jackman and his team and is based in Stratford upon Avon. When a young woman, Nancy is found injured in a remote farmhouse and a man is then discovered dead in a barn nearby Will and his team must solve the mystery of who the man is and why he has been murdered. You would expect it to be straight forward but this novel is anything but.
Will is a character that I really like. He wants to solve the case quickly whilst caring for his wife and spending time with his daughter who is visiting with her boyfriend. He is also considering applying for a more senior position in another force but not wanting to be behind a desk and loyalty to his team is causing doubt. There is less focus on his personal life than in the previous novel, his wife’s accident is mentioned but not in great detail. The novel is mainly about the investigation.
Nancy, is struggling to recover from her injuries but also the knowledge that her boyfriend isn’t who she thought he was. She didn’t have a great childhood and dreams of a life where she was married, has a close family and a beautiful home. She was an easy character to like and I wanted her to achieve her dream. There was a lot to the case, it’s hard to review without giving any spoilers but it didn’t go the way I expected at all. It does all work though and was believable.
I have read all the books that Jane Isaac has published and they just get better with each one. I’m eagerly looking forward to the next book in the series. With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin.

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About the Book

The flame of genius scorches every generation it touches.
Following a lonely upbringing in the woods of northern Michigan, Milo Andret enrols as a graduate student at U.C. Berkeley, where the faculty is the first to recognize that the young man’s childhood solitude has created a prodigiously unusual mind. Yet with Milo’s great gifts come great risks, and California in the seventies is rife with temptation. The research he begins at Berkeley will make him a legend; the woman, and the rival he meets, will haunt him forever. For it soon becomes clear that Milo’s brilliance is linked to a dark need that ultimately threatens to destroy not only his work and his marriage, but the lives of all his children, as well.
A Doubter’s Almanac is at once a captivatingly virtuoso illustration of the powers of the mind and a deeply moving exploration of the nature of love, ambition and genius. It is a novel of flawed characters and unreachable dreams, of bonds that tie and passions that destroy; a major work of dazzling and seductive beauty from one of our foremost writers.

My Review

My first book of 2017 is a completely different type of book to what I usually read. It is also by an author that I have never read before.
Milo is a genius, a mathematician whose life is governed by trying to solve mathematical problems and be the first to do so. There is a lot of focus on mathematics in the novel and all of it was beyond my comprehension. However, the story gripped me enough to carry on reading.
He is a troubled person. There are many words you can use to describe him. Abusive, aggressive, bullying, condescending, critical, impatient, selfish and unforgiving are just a few. He is also a loner, has been from an early age and his inability to mix with people accounts for many of his faults.
Most of the emphasis on mathematics occurs in part one, it is present in part two but the narrative here switches from Milo to his son Hans. The story was much easier to read in bigger chunks in part two, probably with there being more of a story and it being told by a more likeable person.
The author demonstrates how a genius can be in every generation but also an addict and sometimes they are linked. The consequences of addiction from both characters was quite upsetting to read, especially the scenes that concerned Milo. What became evident towards the end of the novel was that despite all of Milo’s faults he was also loyal and loving but probably due to his own isolated childhood completely useless at showing it.
I loved the female characters in the novel. Mom, Audra and Paulie were all fantastic, warm, humorous, patient and forgiving people. I felt that they all gave the novel its depth and humility. I also liked the chapter headings, I’ve never read any like them before. ‘ You can’t comb the hair on a coconut’ is a firm favourite.
I did find the mathematics slightly off putting but the story and the female characters more than compensated and I will look out for Ethan Canin’s previous novels.

Only The Brave by Mel Sherratt.

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About the Book

When one of the notorious Johnson brothers is murdered and a bag of money goes missing, a deadly game of cat and mouse is set in motion.
DS Allie Shenton and her team are called in to catch the killer, but the suspects are double-crossing each other and Allie has little time to untangle the web of lies.
As she delves deeper into the case, things take a personal turn when Allie realises she is being stalked by the very same person who attacked her sister seventeen years ago and left her for dead.
Set over forty-eight tension-filled hours, Only the Brave is the latest gut-churning book from acclaimed author Mel Sherratt.

My Review

When I first met Allie Shenton in Mel Sherratt’s debut novel I liked her very much and thought the storyline fantastic. Equally so in the follow up but then I did my usual trick of falling behind with a series. When I eventually got around to reading the third book it didn’t take me long to pick up where I left off.
The books are very closely linked, there is a very strong thread running through the series so if you haven’t read the previous two you might struggle slightly. They are very good though so I would recommend them anyway.
When the body of a local man is found on a rough estate there are plenty of suspects. Most of them are known to the police and having appeared earlier in the series also the reader. Some of them are victims but there are also some nasty characters, all of them very believable. Allie is struggling, her sister’s health has deteriorated and the case is very intense. The team are desperate to solve quickly and Allie hasn’t been as truthful with anybody about a continuous personal threat.
I have read two of Mel’s series of books now and whilst enjoying The Estate Series I like this one more. Allie is a character I really like, she isn’t a senior officer, constantly has to answer for her actions to her superior officers and keep her marriage on an even keel. Her marriage feels real, they are devoted to each other and her husband understands her commitment to her job and her guilt over her sister. I felt that a lot of research has been done, talking to serving officers on how they keep everything level. The case was also believable, you often see on the news about ongoing ‘situations’ in real life cases like the one that features in the book.
This book seemed to provide closure to a few of the storylines but I would love it if there will be more in the series.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received via NetGalley.

Cracked by Barbra Leslie.

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About the book

After her stormy marriage ends, Danny Cleary jumps down the rabbit hole into a world of crack cocaine delivered to her door by a polite but slightly deranged dealer. But when Danny’s twin sister Ginger is murdered, Danny and her rock musician brother fly to California to find their nephews and the people who killed their sister. Fighting her addiction, nosy cops and crazy drug dealers, she kicks ass and takes names, embracing her inner vigilante in a quest to avenge her sister and save her family. Cracked is a darkly comic roller-coaster ride to redemption as Danny struggles with bad guys and her own demons to find out who killed her twin.

My Review

Barbra Leslie is likened to Janet Evanovich, an author whose books I enjoy very much. Cracked is the first of a new series of books that feature an extremely flawed heroine, Danny. Danny had a fantastic life until her marriage fell apart and she went from being somebody who was a fitness fanatic to somebody who was addicted to crack. When she gets a telephone call that her twin sister is found dead in a seedy hotel she is desperate to find out why whilst maintaining her habit.
Danny is fully aware of all her flaws, doesn’t try to blame other people for them and struggles immensely with guilt when she finds out that the reason her sister died was that she was trying to understand why Danny had become an addict. Devoted to Ginger, her nephews and a younger brother she is hell bent on getting answers and revenge.
At times, it was totally unbelievable but it was also a lot of fun. The characters were likeable despite their flaws and showed that despite addiction they were also loyal. There were quite a few ‘baddies’, some of them unexpected.
My impression was that there would be a continuing storyline throughout the series. There was no cliffhanger ending but there were a few unanswered questions that I hope will be resolved in the second book Rehab Run. I have this book also and hope to read very soon.
With thanks to Titan Books for both books received.