The Grave Tattoo Hardcover – 1 Feb 2006
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It's a time-honoured tradition that the best crime writers begin to chafe at the constraints of their area of the genre and feel a need to stretch their literary muscles. With The Grave Tattoo, the estimable Val McDermid demonstrates that she, too, has felt the need of a change from her contemporary novels of crime and detection, and here takes on a truly ambitious panoply. Not that McDermid has been afraid to tackle unconventional subjects before--it's just that the scale of this novel is even more impressive. A corpse is discovered on a hill in the Lake District, adorned with bizarre tattoos. Wordsworth expert Jane Gresham finds herself distracted from her studies of the great Lakeland poet when another mystery surfaces, involving the Pitcairn Massacre and the events of the mutiny on the Bounty. Is it possible that Fletcher Christian, who led the rebellion against Captain Bligh, faked his own death and clandestinely returned to England? Jane makes a connection between the tattooed body and the tattoos on sailors who served in the South Seas--is this the body of Fletcher Christian? And Jane has another problem on her hands--a young girl who she has tried to help finds herself a murder suspect, and tracks her down to the Lakes. And as Jane closes in on a Wordsworth manuscript that may be a direct transcription of Fletcher Christians confession, she finds herself with someone else on her trail--an ex-lover with similar designs on the precious document.
As all this might suggest, McDermid has set herself a truly daunting task here, with a canvas so crammed with incident, colour and character. And when the reader learns that the central narrative is counterpointed with sections from the Fletcher Christian document, it's clear that we are a long way away from the medical and criminological puzzles of Wire in the Blood. It is to McDermid's credit that she draws so many strands together with such assurance.
‘An irresistible combination of contemporary psychological thriller and historical mystery' Tess Gerritsen
‘Cunning and gripping… A substantially entertaining novel which grips the reader’s interest from the first page until the final deeply satisfying sentence’ Express
‘Trying to solve a 200-year-old mystery becomes increasingly lethal and readable' Mirror
‘One of the world’s leading mystery writers…Thomas Harris crossed with Agatha Christie, if you will… A great read. England’s heritage history has never been so chilling’ Observer
‘Safe for the squeamish… one of her best’ Literary ReviewSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Everything is just one tiny step from the everyday, which, for me, makes it all the more exciting. It's all utterly believeable. You could easily know any of the characters.
I don't understand why other reviews have criticised the characters. I find them really vivid, real, visible.
On Sunday 12th March 2006 the BBC programme Countryfile was presented from the Lake District and it was alarming to see how close this book is to reality in terms of Wordsworth and the missing manuscripts. A poem by Wordsworth turned up around just 30 years ago.
Val McDermid's writing is wonderful. I looked forward to picking it up and enjoyed every page.
I actually went along to the talk and signing of this book by the author at my local library. My two friends had stacks of previous titles they wanted Val to sign, I just went along for something to do.
I have only read one book by Val McDermaid, and because we arrived late into the lecture theatre and missed the beginning, I was quite sure that total would stay at one. Val was talking about the Lake District, Fletcher Christian, Mutiny on the Bounty, Captain Bligh, Wordsworth, etc, etc.........I think I had a little snooze at this point, I'd had a long day. Anyway, I revitalised myself slightly when Val was answering questions, (in between great swigs of Stella Artois, [Val, not me, I stuck to the free coffee and gypsy creams.]) and it wasn't a bad evening.
Back to the book - I managed to get hold of a copy to see what all the fuss was about, and knowing that there was some criminal element weaved into the plot, I thought it couldn't be all that bad.
I nearly read it one go. It had everything you would want from a great crime novel, especially if you are a geek, and you get to learn something new. If, like me, you know nothing of the mutiny and Fletcher Christian and Pitcairn, (I bet you're thinking now, 'eh?'), don't worry, its a top read, nice and easy, with beautiful language.
It is a slightly strained plot and its twists and turns are not wholly convincing. But a lively literary scholar is sure that there is such a document and her search for it leads to a number of deaths. A subsidiary plot involving her teenage London neighbour on the run from the police is a lot less successful.
A part of the plot involves family history research and the author really does not seem to have much knowledge about it - her heroine could have used Ancestry or Genes Reunited and saved a lot of time!
I enjoyed this novel a lot.
Having read many of Val's books, I expected much more and found this frustrating rather than an enjoyable read.
Well-written,of course. A good, skilfully woven plot, of course. But where is the humour and the sense that the characters are anything other than cardboard cut-outs. And what's more, I really don't care about any of them.
Please get back to basics, Val
I read this book in 2 days (stopping only for boring things like work!) and enjoyed every single word of it. This is a real page turner, a thought-provoker, an education (as I knew nothing about the Mutiny) and a sheer joy to read. I had goose-pimples by the finale as by then I really cared about the characters and how things sorted themselves out for them.
By anyone's standards, this is excellent story-telling. It may not be what we are all used to from Val McDermid but as far as I am concerned, this is a fantastic book in its own right. Read it but read it with an open mind and don't expect it to be what you are used to.
The Grave Tattoo along with A Place of Execution, are the books Val McDermid was born to write - and I am deeply hoping that she was born to write many more like this.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I've read a lot of Val McDermids books, but this is definitely a one-off, unlike any others. I didn't know a lot about the Bounty Mutiny, [I remember seeing an old movie as a lad ,... Read morePublished 2 months ago by ChrisT
I almost put Christmas on hold to finish this book. I've not read many of Val McDermid's books but intend to rectify that. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Terry H. Watson
A very different novel from Val McDermid from my recent obsession with Tony Hill but nonetheless gripping and absorbing from the first page. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Jane Baker
Very slow at the start and thought about giving up, but I like Val Mcdermid books and stuck with it. I am glad I did, she didn't disappoint.Published 12 months ago by mrs. j. sheldon
Loved the interweaving of different history with the landscape. Tenile and Jane's relationship worked but denouement didn't convince me really.Published 13 months ago by Ms M T Conway