VAL McDERMID – The Grave Tattoo. St. Martin’s/Minotaur Books, hardcover, February 2007; reprint paperback, April 2008.

VAL McDERMID The Grave Tattoo

   I was fond of McDermid’s early work, but after I became disenchanted with the Tony Hill serial killer series, I’ve not been a Faithful Reader of her books. The Grave Tattoo is a stand-alone novel in which Jane Gresham, a Wordsworth scholar, finds clues to a lost manuscript by the Romantic poet that appears to be a poetic version of Fletcher Christian’s story, recounted by him to the poet.

   While Jane’s interest is that of the researcher who senses she’s on the trail of a career-making subject, the interest of others is distinctly mercenary, and they quickly show themselves to have few (if any scruples) in how they get the manuscript. A series of murders begins to narrow the possible sources for the recovery of the document, with Jane a prime suspect.

   This is a competent literary mystery that I found initially difficult to get into but that eventually picked up enough momentum to keep me reading. I thought the pages from Fletcher Christian’s diary were engaging and had more narrative drive than the rather ponderous main plot line. This is a book that requires a patient reader.

Note:   For Geoff Bradley’s recent comments on Val McDermid’s A Place of Execution (both book and TV adaptation), go here.