Tuesday, September 05, 2006

THE GRAVE TATOO by Val McDermid (2005)

Atypical torrential rain drenches the Lake District and exposes a bog body that has been wildly tatooed. Local lore suggests it could be the corpse of the legendary sailor Fletcher Christian who led the mutiny on the Bounty against Captain Bligh. For four centuries people in the district have gossiped that Christian returned home to England after staging a massacre on the island of Pitcairn in the South Pacific. He told his story in confidence to the most famous man of the district, William Wordsworth, a school chum and longtime family friend. Wordsworth, at the height of his poetic power, may have turned the sailor's tale into a long narrative poem that he never published.

Enter Jane Gresham, a Lake District girl who has become a Wordsworth scholar. Jane discovers fresh correspondence between Wordsworth's widow and their son John that intimates the existence of such a poem. As she tries to follow the genealogical labyrinth to the possible whereabouts of this precious manuscript in the present, there are a series of troubling murders.

I couldn't put this book down because of its galloping pace and interweaving subplots. No stone is left unturned by McDermid in her research. I stayed up reading into the early hours even knowing I had to haul myself out of bed at 5 a.m. to row this morning.

No comments: