As well as being an author, Paul Clayton is an actor known for his appearances on Channel 4’s Peep Show. This is his first novel, written at writing retreats in the Dordogne.
The Punishment starts as most things do, at the beginning with an act that shapes the rest of the book. It’s a dark thriller that shows how actions have consequences, that might possibly be justified. It’s up to the reader to decide in some ways. I changed my opinion several times as I read on. I enjoyed the writing style that moves between time periods, sometimes giving the reader answers, and often more questions.
The main protagonist, Daniel Maple is an out of work soap star who has fallen out of the public eye, and therefore, is struggling to find work and pay his mortgage. He meets a guy in a nightclub and things start to unravel from there. It made me consider what I would do for money! He pushes the boundaries of his remaining friendships as he spirals out of control. The author uses his life experience in his writing of scenes set in the studio. They are particularly realistic (only in part, but no plot spoilers).
This is a book that seems to expect to be read in a weekend, you might need a comforting hot drink and a cat on your lap for reassurance though. There are questions remaining at the end of it. I think it would make a good book group read, as it would stimulate a lot of discussion and thought about the frailty of human nature.
The Punishment by Paul Clayton is out now published by Flatpack Publishing.
*Trigger Warnings for Child Sexual abuse*
Review by Carolyn Batcheler