The Grave Tattoo
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The Grave Tattoo

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  2,301 ratings  ·  260 reviews

From bestselling author Val McDermid comes a modern thriller about an ancient murder set on the high seas…

After summer rains uncover a corpse bearing tattoos like those of eighteenth-century seafarers, many residents of the English Lake District can’t help but wonder whether it’s the body of one of the town’s most legendary fugitives.

Scholar and native Lakelander Jane Gres

Paperback, 448 pages
Published April 29th 2008 by Minotaur Books (first published 2006)
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This is probably the weakest Val McDermid book that I've read, save for her more deliberately pulpy novels about plucky journalists and private investigators flouting the law to get results (heck, I'd probably read Kate Brannigan again in a second). Admittedly I can't work up the amount of apathy for this as I did for Beneath The Bleeding, the book where she thought her team of serial killer investigators should horn in on a terrorism investigation - a knee jerk reaction to the 7/7 bombings.
THE GRAVE TATTOO is a standalone book from the prolific and well-known author of, amongst many others, The Wire In The Blood series.

When a tattooed, 200-year-old body is uncovered in the peat bogs of the Lake District, local girl turned Wordsworth Scholar Jane Gresham is instantly reminded of a local legend about Fletcher Christian, the man who led the mutiny on the Bounty, said to have returned surreptitiously to England from Pitcairn Island. Returning to her childhood home she is on the trail...more
If I were cynical (Cynical? Moi?) I might be tempted to say that The Grave Tattoo was Val McDermid writing a pastiche of Reginald Hill parodying The Da Vinci Code.

But that wouldn't be entirely fair. It's true that it's set in Hill's beloved Lake District, like his The Stranger House published a year or so earlier. It's also true that the plot revolves around an academic's search to uncover the secret of a historical conspiracy held in trust by a hapless Lakeland family before she is beaten to i...more
This was my first Val McDermid novel, and it won't be the last - it was a good read. The premise involves a story that I've always liked: Fletcher Christian and the mutiny on the Bounty. Jane Gresham is a postdoc who is an expert on William Wordsworth, and she grew up in the Lake District where Wordsworth lived and wrote. She's now living in London and doing research at the University. Back in Cumbria, the extremely heavy summer rains have unearthed the mummified body of a tattooed sailor in a p...more
Alice Fitzpatrick
I don't have the problems with this book that a lot of other reviewers seem to have. I fully bought into the plot-lines and even the Christian Fletcher journal excerpts all the away until the revelation of the murderer. I just didn't see it coming, and not in a good way.

What was missing for me was a hint, some foreshadowing of both the potential for this character to commit murder and a motive. It reminds me of the frustration I often feel when reading Agatha Christie, where Miss Marple suddenl...more
Here's the thing: I read McDermid's A Place of Execution and thought it was an astoundingly brilliant mystery. I then devoured a few more of her non-series novels ... A Distant Echo was pretty good-ish. Anything else I read failed to make much of an impression. So when I saw this one at the library a few days ago, I knew I probably woudn't love it, but I wanted something not-too-weighty to get me through the weekend. Mission accomplished. This tale of murder in the Lake District isn't the tour d...more
I don't know how many people know about Fletcher Cristian and the mutiny on the Bounty, but I'm inclined to argue that it's famous enough in England to make Blyth the fifth or sixth most famous naval captain in English history (behind Scott, Cook, Wellington, Shackleton and Nelson).

In this book, McDermid introduces a new central character, Jane Gresham. Gresham is a Wordsworth scholar who believes that Fletcher Christian made it back to the UK after the mutiny and told his friend William Wordswo...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Oxford graduate and erstwhile journalist Val McDermid, grand dame of the British psychological mystery (Peter Guttridge describes her as "Thomas Harris crossed with Agatha Christie") since the publication of Report for Murder two decades ago, has written a clever puzzle of a book that bridges history and mystery and demonstrates the author's range. The Grave Tattoo combines scenery, story, and spot-on characters into one of her most engaging efforts yet. The author's strength has always been her

Six months ago, I took this book to a Mexican Resort and tried valiantly to read it. Margaritas and sunshine got in the way. This is not a pool side resort book because it takes a bit of concentration.

A cold winter day and a couple of sleepy cats, however, proved the right formula for finishing this book. I felt it striving for the feel and style of Possession--academic scholars, romance, a mystery text. In this respect I think McDermid did a good job. It's the murder mystery that is intertwine...more
This was my firts venture into McDermid's work, and I have ot say, I was most impressed. The underlying literary themes gave it an added zest, which was most appreciated.

I felt the conclusion was rather obvious (strange for me, as this is not my preferred genre)-but this didn't detract from the excitement engendered by the fast paced events! Am not sure I will read the series-there does seem to be rather a lot of them-but this was an excellent introduction to a talented author.
Jessica Howard
I actually listened to this on audio book, and was so into the story that since the last disc wasn't finished on Friday, and I couldn't wait till my Monday morning commute to finish the story that I took the disk inside and listened to it--a sign of a truly gripping plot!
One of the best books I have read recently and very well written, I will now have no qualms at reading any of the books by this author.
Suzanne Fox
Anticipated this one eagerly thanks to its combination of a really skilled suspense writer and a concept linking present to historic past, but found the book neither an absorbing literary mystery a la Lynn Shepherd nor a suspenseful thriller a la McDermid herself.

The weak link is protagonist Jane Gresham, whose character seems shaped largely by plot convenience: she has to be an academic for the literary aspect of the story, a native of the Lake District to give her some resources in the locale...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Well, if you have to read a literary thriller from 2007, read The Double Bind. This adult novel took me hours to read. I kept finding other things to do. I did laundry, watched TV, took a nap. All because I couldn't finish this slow-moving supposed thriller.[return][return]Jane is a Wordsworth scholar and even grew up in the Lake District. So when a dead body with tattoos washes up in the bogs, she's interested. She thinks it might help prove her theory that Fletcher Christian, of Mutiny of the...more
David Peters
Why I read It
Val McDermid has written three different mystery series (crimes investigated by the same characters) and several standalones (not in a series). I have the first book in her biggest series (now a BBC TV show called Wire in the Blood) on order, but until then I have been reading some of the solo efforts. This one was in my local library.

The Good
I really like speculative revisionist history with a mystery subplot, and I would guess so do most of you. If you are not sure what I am talki...more
I was very pleasantly surprised by this novel. I am NOT a fan of thrillers/crime novels, and was drawn to this simply through the location (The Lake District), and the literary connection (a body is found buried on a Fell, with a potential link to Wordsworth and his family.) It was a page turning and stunning expose of a well thought out and planned plot, which was also well constructed, moving amidst characters and locations with an ease which was pleasant to behold. The modern characters were...more
Clarissa Draper
Genre: Mystery Thriller
How I read it: I own it.

What attracted me to the book: I love reading all Val McDermid books. She's one of my favorite authors.

Who should read this book: Mystery lovers, Val McDermid lovers, history lovers, breathers of air. Note of caution: there are some disturbing scenes and some foul language in this book. Almost all Val's books are this way - if you've read any, you'll know what I'm talking about.

Summary (from amazon): An intriguing, 200-year-old mystery propels this...more
Victoria Nauta
It's extremely difficult for me to give one of Val McDermid's books only three stars, but this was by far one of the most unlikeable books she's ever written. McDermid is my favorite author, so I was expecting a story full of interesting characters; great plot development; mystery; intrigue and great twists. "The Grave Tattoo" does not give you any of that.
There is way too much focus on the lost Wordsworth manuscript and every chapter opens with an excerpt from this. It has absolutely nothing to...more
Das Moor des Vergessens von Val McDermid verknüpft einen historisch-literarischen Mordfall mit Todesfällen der Gegenwart: Jane Gresham ist Expertin für den berühmten Dichter William Wordsworth aus dem Lake District. Als dort eine tötowierte Moorleiche entdeckt wird, stellt sie eine Verbindung her zu Fletcher Christian, der nicht nur die berühmte Meuterei auf der Bounty anführte, sondern in seiner Jugend auch mit dem Dichter befreundet war. Sie hat die Theorie, dass Christian Fletcher Wordsworth...more
Kathleen Hagen
The Grave Tattoo, by Val McDermid B-plus.
Jane Gresham is a Wordsworth scholar. There has been a rumor that she has heard since childhood that Fletcher Christian, of “Mutiny on the Bounty” fame, made his way back to England, and that Wordsworth aided him in staying hidden and not arrested for the mutiny. The secret remained with Wordsworth through his life because he would have been arrested for aiding a criminal had it been known that he assisted Christian. Wordsworth according to the story, wro...more
First, I've read a lot of reviews that compared this to Dan Brown. I've read every Dan Brown book published and this book did not remind me of any of his books.
This book took a while to get into. Longer than most.
Once it grabbed me, it took off. But it took till the middle of the book for this to happen.
The story is about the discovery of a dead body in the Lake District. The body is very old. Enough to be a sailor from the ship in "Mutiny of the Bounty". Speculation is, the body is that of Fle...more
May 05, 2008 Sarah rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like historicla mysteries or the English countryside
Recommended to Sarah by: My mother
Val McDermid is that author of the books upon which Wire in the Blood (on BBC America) is based. I am a big fan of Wire in the Blood, so I thought I would try this book. It is completely different from wire in the Blood.

Wire in the Blood is a cop drama with a forensic psychologist/profiler. It's very psychological and thriller-like. The Grave Tattoo is much more of a traditional mystery with some Lake District, William Wordsworth and modern teenage gangstaness thrown in.

Someone tramping though...more
Jane Gresham is a Wordsworth scholar from the Lake District of England. She is 25, writing a book, working in a bar, and teaching seminars at University, barely eking out her existence in a poor crime-ridden London council estate. Her boyfriend Jake has recently left her and her only friend on the estate is a 13-year-old black girl, Tenille. Rumours have persisted for centuries in the Lake District that Fletcher Christian, the leader of the Bounty mutineers, eventually returned to England. Based...more
Rosalind Mitchell
If I were cynical (Cynical? Moi?) I might be tempted to say that The Grave Tattoo was Val McDermid writing a pastiche of Reginald Hill parodying The Da Vinci Code.

But that wouldn't be entirely fair. It's true that it's set in Hill's beloved Lake District, like his The Stranger House published a year or so earlier. It's also true that the plot revolves around an academic's search to uncover the secret of a historical conspiracy held in trust by a hapless Lakeland family before she is beaten to i...more
Aug 09, 2008 rabbitprincess rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: literary mystery fans, McDermid fans (who bear in mind that it's not a Tony Hill-esque mystery)
Recommended to rabbitprincess by: parents
Shelves: cadeau, 2008
Reading The Grave Tattoo has taught me the value of actually looking at the back cover before plunging into a book, even if you've already read work by the author. I went blithely into reading this book thinking it would be another Dr. Tony Hill mystery, one of suspense and murders so skin-crawlingly chilling that I would be unable to read it after dark lest I get nightmares.

Well, no. This story is a giant departure for McDermid, at least to me, whose preference is for the aforementioned Tony Hi...more
Another case of the reader making the book so much better, in this case a difficult task as the book is already pretty darn good.

The case superficially revolves around a recently discovered body in the marshes in the Lake District, but really it's about Jane Gresham, a scholar from the area currently supplementing her small teaching stipend by waiting tables in London, who is determined to find out whether this body is that of Fletcher Christian--of H.M.S. Bounty fame--and whether his return to...more
Val McDermid once again delivers perfectly on a fantastic piece of stand-alone crime literature, and The Grave Tattoo is an intelligently written, gripping piece of writing, that takes the reader from the rough back streets of London, to the rolling hills of the Lake District.

At the centre of it all is Jane Gresham, a Wordsworth scholar, who, in hearing about a mysterious ancient body that has washed up during a flood, finds herself pursuing a theory she has long had, that Fletcher Christian, m...more
McDermid's range as a writer is amazing, and she's quite prolific. She's written about 20 stand-alone books, and I love that her narrative voice adapts to a given work in each of these.

Such is the case with the fascinating A Grave Tattoo. Set in the Lake District of England, it starts with a long-dead body discovered by a shepherd in a peat bog. Early forensic work places the body's time of death in the 1800s, contemporary with the District's biggest celebrity, the poet William Wordsworth. The b...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Val McDermid was born and schooled on the east coast of Scotland and then Oxford University after which she became a journalist.

Her first book, Report for Murder was published in 1987 and since then she has gone on to have 25 more books published.

She lives in Manchester and Northumberland with 3 cats.
More about Val McDermid...
The Mermaids Singing (Tony Hill & Carol Jordan, #1) The Wire In The Blood (Tony Hill & Carol Jordan, #2) A Place of Execution The Torment of Others (Tony Hill & Carol Jordan, #4) Fever of the Bone (Tony Hill & Carol Jordan, #6)

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