The Grave Tattoo

Val McDermid, Author . St. Martin's Minotaur $24.95 (390p) ISBN 978-0-312-33921-0

An intriguing, 200-year-old mystery propels this multilayered stand-alone from British author McDermid set in England's Lake District. Scholar Jane Gresham pursues her theory that HMS Bounty mutineer Fletcher Christian returned secretly from exile to his homeland in the late 18th century. A shriveled body found in a bog seems to bear resemblance to this dashing hero, right down to the South Sea tattoos that blacken his buttocks. Jane searches relentlessly for a lost manuscript by the poet Wordsworth that relates Christian's tale in tantalizing excerpts between chapters. Various subplots complicate her quest, including a fraught friendship with precocious 13-year-old Tenille, a lonely, mixed-race girl who also loves Romantic poetry. With a feminist, socially conscious spin, McDermid (The Distant Echo ) vividly contrasts marginal subsistence in London's dismal Marshpool neighborhood with the Lake District's bucolic lifestyle. Boasting blurbs from such notable authors as Harlan Coben, Tess Gerritsen and Joseph Finder, this could be McDermid's break-out book. 100,000 printing; author tour. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 11/06/2006
Release date: 02/01/2007
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