cover image Tattoo


Manuel Vazquez Montalban, , trans. from the Spanish by Nick Caistor. . Serpent's Tail, $14.95 (232pp) ISBN 978-1-84668-667-2

Those who prefer getting inside characters' heads to figuring out whodunit will enjoy this mystery in Montalbán's series featuring food-loving PI Pepe Carvalho (Buenos Aires Quintet , etc.), first published in Spain in 1976. When the corpse of an unknown man with the words “Born to Raise Hell in Hell” tattooed on his shoulder surfaces off the Barcelona coast, Ramón Freixas, a hair salon owner, asks Carvalho to investigate. For reasons he doesn't share with the gumshoe, Freixas wants the victim identified. The tattoo's trail takes the detective to Amsterdam, where he figures out the murder was related to the drug trade. Carvalho's cynicism (he divides the world into “those who go to jail and those who might go to jail”) will make him a familiar figure to hard-boiled devotees. The final twist will appeal to readers comfortable with some ambiguity. (Feb.)