Title: Poison in the Pills
Author: August Raine
Published by: Independently published
Publication date: 1st August 2020
Genre: Mystery/Medical Thriller
A mysterious illness is ravaging the nation. Those suffering from the dreaded sickness are in so much pain that some victims have peeled the flesh from their bones in a desperate attempt to relieve their symptoms.
Set in and around Manchester, the novel follows Jack Bright, a scientist working to cure the sickness. Whilst investigating a clinical trial that went tragically wrong, he realises there has been a terrible mistake. But before he can find out more, he is framed.
Desperate, not only to clear his name but also to find the cause of the sickness, Jack is forced to resort to increasingly questionable methods. Breaking and entering. Blackmail. Kidnapping. With every decision, his morals are tested but he perseveres, motivated by a tragedy in his past.
Jack’s luck is constantly dwindling, until he finds himself racing against more than just the people who are after him.
I was given a copy of Poison in the Pills by author August Raine in return for an honest review. My thanks goes to August for the copy of the book and I hope you find my review satisfactory.
Poison in the Pills is the debut novel of August Raine, a mystery/medical thriller that investigates the relations between the illegal drug Dose and a horrendous sickness that’s causing overwhelming havoc throughout the nation. The illness has become known as the ‘Itch’ due to the degrees that suffers will go to in order to alleviate their pain; scratching the flesh from their bones!
The concept behind Poison in the Pills is fantastic and entirely topical considering current events. Undoubtably it will bring up thoughts of the current global pandemic – but at the same time it’s so far removed from factual events it’s still enjoyable as a read. It is clear that the Itch is entirely fictional but well researched that it’s entirely believable. The plot is essentially simple, Jack Bright is a researcher at the company trying to find a cure for the Itch and after a clinical trial does wrong – resulting in deaths – he is mortified to discover that the company is covering up the details.
Jack Bright is an interesting lead character, he is head-strong and sure of himself. He goes through a lot in this fast-paced novel and he keeps the reader focused on the key elements of the plot; figuring out what is happening with the Itch in relation to the ‘cure.’ I found him a compelling, well-balanced, lead. I touched on my issues with apathetic main characters in my review of (Para)Normal Society and while Bright has his moments of uncaring they are placed well in order to keep the plots focus; he is single minded in his mission to expose the truth and Poison in the Pills is bolstered for it. I really rooted for Jack Bright and his desire to uncover the truth behind the cure. His flaws helped to round out his character as much as his strengths.
Alongside Jack are other compelling characters, the jovial prankster, Lizzy. Overbearing Bowker, whose clipped mannerisms and expressions are carefully considered. The complicated relationship, Erin and the utterly creepy Klas – all of whom stand well on their own two feet.
Klas is an entity unto himself who allows the authors darker sense of imagination come to the fore. He is an information broker that doesn’t trade in the material. Doing a deal with Klas is opening up a ‘can of worm’ that might never be closed properly. I particularly enjoyed the scenes that involved him as I found them to give the novel a much more macabre feel – as if a story about a disease that makes you want to scratch your skin off to relieve the pain isn’t sinister enough!
Poison in the Pills got an instant ‘yes,’ from me on the review front because it is set in and around Manchester, which is near where I live. I am not in the big city myself, but near enough to know some of the places that were mentioned and it all felt accurate enough to me. I know it’s a small thing, but researching a place where a novel is set is pretty important and having familiar places mentioned, Piccadilly Gardens and Northern Quarter, and accurately described really makes the novel stand on it’s own two feet.
Posion in the Pills is an easy book to pick and read, even with the technical medical jargon within. The plot easy to follow but with enough twists and turns to keep the read entertaining and the reader guessing. There were some revelations late on that I didn’t see coming and were (almost) as mortifying as the disease itself.
All of the questions set out in the plot are answered by the novels conclusion, but with enough threads left hanging that we might be treated to a sequel – which is exciting. There was a handful of spelling and typo-style errors in the novel, but as a whole they didn’t detract from the story, just something to mention. Maybe another round of proof-reading will catch them all on the second novel!?
An action packed medical thriller with compelling, well-rounded characters. Poison in the Pills is a grizzly, gritty novel that is topical with current affairs, but also brings forth questions of morality of both drug users and ‘big-pharma.’ An all-round enjoyable debut novel that speaks highly for the authors future.