A Review by Kate Charlton

Val McDermid is best known for her Tony Hill and Carol Jordan novels (made into the television series Wire in the Blood), but she has also written the Kate Brannigan series, the Lindsay Gordon series and stand-alone novels. The Grave Tattoo is her fourth stand-alone and,although it has the usual engaging characters and page-turning effect,it is different from anything she has written before.

The Grave Tattoo was inspired by the fact that William Wordsworth and Fletcher Christian (later leader of the mutiny on the Bounty) went to school together and the rumour that Fletcher Christian returned home to the Lake District instead of dying on Pitcairn Island.When a 200-year-old body covered in strange tattoos is discovered in a bog in the Lake District, some believe it could be Fletcher Christian.

Jane Gresham, a young Wordsworth scholar, has a theory that Fletcher Christian may have told his story to William Wordsworth who turned it into an epic poem that has been hidden ever since. She returns to her family home in the Lake District to search for the lost manuscript.

Others follow her for various reasons, not least the fact that the manuscript would be worth a fortune. One of them is prepared to kill to lay their hands on it. Jane’s quest is deftly interlaced with a forensic anthropologist’s investigation of the body from the bog, the exploits of an appealing teenage runaway who needs Jane’s help and Fletcher Christian’s story.

This is an ambitious novel and it is brilliantly realised, making it an enthralling, highly enjoyable read.

Visit for more information about Val McDermid and about the release of The Grave Tattoo in your country.

To read an article by Val McDermid on the research involved in writing The Grave Tattoo, visit,,923-2044221,00.html


Kate Charlton is our Australian editor. In addition to sifting through submissions and occasionally writing reviews and doing author interviews, Kate juggles her studies, her career, her intense reading schedule and tries not to get distracted by the antics of her two cats.

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