9. Ingenious Pain - Arthur Miller - 337 pages (5 stars)
I wish I could find a better photo of the cover, because it's one of the prettiest covers I've seen in a long time.
This is a book that I'm puzzled isn't more well-known. It seems to have garnered good reviews when it first came out in the late nineties, but I'd never heard of it before. The novel is about a man who cannot physically feel pain in the mid-seventeenth century. He goes through life not quite living because while he cannot feel pain, he cannot feel pleasure, either. James Dyer is therefore cold and calculating, and becomes a celebrity surgeon because he has no qualms about cutting human flesh. He does not forge friendships, and he's essentially a cold-hearted bastard.
It's excellently written, with good pacing and an intricate plot. Lots of little things about the time period I enjoy are in here--wandering about the countryside and scamming the public, scandal, a crazy wealthy man who insists on collecting oddities, both objects and people. It's one of the best books I've read this year. The quote on the cover by The Times hits it on the nose when it states, "Astoundingly good . . . it shines like a becon among the grey dross of much contemporary fiction."