The Grave Tattoo

The Grave Tattoo - Val McDermid

‘Goodbye, Dr Gresham. I don’t expect we’ll meet again,’ he said. He sounded so much like a Bond villain that the spell broke. Jane grinned. ‘You never know,’ she said.


Apparently, I'm on a Val McDermid mission at the moment. So, when I found out (by a quick word search on kindle) that The Grave Tattoo did not have as many ties to graves/graveyards as I would have liked to satisfy a certain bingo square, there was no reason to hold back any longer on this murder mystery combining The Mutiny on the Bounty, William Wordsworth, and an East End of London kingpin. 


I'm not sure which part of the book I liked best but rather enjoyed the back and forth between Fletcher Christian's (fictional) memoirs and Jane, a struggling academic who balances waitressing with academia, investigation into whether Wordsworth did write an unpublished account of the Mutiny on the Bounty

I also enjoyed the relationship between Jane and her neighbour, a vulnerable 13-year-old, who gets thrown into the midst of murder and a police hunt. This was quite different from McDermid's usual setup as the leading characters we're not part of or related to the police force. Unlike the Pirie or Jordan/Hill series, this was not a police procedural. There was some part that included a forensic investigation, but this was in connection with the mystery of a body found in a peat bog, not in connection with any of the crimes.


The Grave Tattoo probably explains why I prefer McDermid's standalones to the series: there is no formula to follow. It's a bit of a restriction of the series that they strive to contain a factual basis of not plot but procedure in order to sustain the series. In The Grave Tattoo, there seemed more flexibility of offering a more outlandish plot, and it worked.