Book Review of The Grave Tattoo

The Grave Tattoo
reviewed on
Helpful Score: 2


Val McDermid spins a fine tale full of literary intrigue, historical speculation, forensics, England's Lake District and a murderer targeting a families elderly.

Jane Gresham is a literary scholar with a theory about Fletcher Christian, of Bounty mutiny fame, and brings him sneaking back into England to tell his story to William Wordsworth who crafts an epic poem that was never published. Wordsworth like Beatrix Potter lived in the Lakes district, so the story ends up there among the extended family descendants of one of Wordsworth's maids. A boring cozy? Not a bit of it!

Jane befriends a girl from her London flat neighborhood who gets falsely accused of a murder, and shelters her on the family farm. Tenille Cole is thirteen, but thinks like thirty. An odd pair? Yes, but an interesting pair!

Somebody is killing off the old descendants of Dorcas Mayson (Mason) as Jane follows the family tree in search of the manuscript. There seem to be too many characters, and too many suspects, but McDermid gives them all personality and a reason to be there. McDermid builds a complex story with many principal characters and several seemingly disparate story lines and manages to bring it all together nicely at the end. Recommended.