Liz Jensen's latest book is emotionally compelling, morally fascinating and slightly appalling. The Ninth Life of Louis Drax haunts the reader with two voices: one belongs to Louis himself, a precocious, sarcastic, emotionally cauterised nine-year-old with distinct behavioural problems; the other is Dr Pascal Dannachet. Louis, like all Pascal's patients, is in a coma.
Pierre, Louis's troubled father, has instigated a family holiday, picnicking in the precipitous beauty of the Auvergne. All seems to go well until there is a blazing row during which Louis falls into a ravine and Pierre simply disappears.
Louis is miraculously resurrected from a morgue slab to a coma, and we have only Natalie Drax's account to believe. Against all professionalism and the warnings of colleagues, Pascal quickly and obviously becomes infatuated with her (or her aura of victim), which tips his own marriage into freefall.
The result is breathtaking. The Ninth Life of Louis Drax has more suspense than many thrillers, and beguiles with the near-mystic, conjectural fields of medicine where neuroscience peters out into paranormal phenomena. Behind the subterfuge is something excoriating, horrifying and weirdly beautiful.