A Good and Useful Hurt

Aric Davis, Author
Aric Davis. Amazon/47North, $14.95 trade paper (302p) ISBN 978-1-61218-202-5
Reviewed on: 02/27/2012
Release date: 02/01/2012
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Davis' second outing (after Nickel Plated) is an occasionally muddled, though mostly entertaining murder mystery/love story mash-up with an intriguing premise: protagonist Mike owns a tattoo shop in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he inks clients with standard flash, but will also mix in the ashes of cremated loved ones if a customer so desires. Though a little macabre for Mike's taste, the bereaved seem to derive comfort from keeping their dearly departed close. While Mike continues to cope with the suicide of his recent flame, he is nonetheless intrigued by a new addition to the shop—Deb, an ace body piercer—and troubled by the news that a serial killer is terrorizing the town. Davis, a veteran tattoo artist, writes about parlors and their denizens with a workmanlike credibility, but the novel can't quite commit to being a moody tale of lost love or a gripping thriller. Underdeveloped characters make dialogue difficult to follow, and the story fights to pull its weight until it settles into the murder mystery groove (with a supernatural twist), and Davis finally finds his footing, though the question remains whether the plodding lead-up is worth the exhilarating dénouement. (Feb.)
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