“A policeman on his first murder case
A tattoo artist with a deadly secret
And a twisted serial killer sharpening his blades to kill again…
When Brighton tattoo artist Marni Mullins discovers a flayed body, newly-promoted DI Francis Sullivan needs her help. There’s a serial killer at large, slicing tattoos from his victims’ bodies while they’re still alive. Marni knows the tattooing world like the back of her hand, but has her own reasons to distrust the police. So when she identifies the killer’s next target, will she tell Sullivan or go after the Tattoo Thief alone?”
I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on The Tattoo Thief blog tour. The Tattoo Thief is the debut novel from Alison Belsham and was published in paperback by Trapeze Books on 20th September 2018. It is also one of my most eagerly anticipated reads of the year after I heard about it from fellow bloggers and bookish folk at Harrogate Crime Festival last year. No pressure, eh?
If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles.com then you will know that I like my reads to err on the darker side of fiction. In fact, I would go as far as saying, the darker – the better, for me! So I was immediately drawn to this book following the mention of ‘flaying’ in the blurb. But there was more to it than that. Yes, it sounded a little on the gruesome side but it is also about something that I find utterly fascinating. Tattoos. Now, I don’t have any tattoos, nor am I brave enough to go out and get one. But I can’t help but be intrigued and find myself casually gazing at tattooed folk from afar, trying to work out what designs they’ve had permanently inked onto their bodies. So in other words, this book absolutely sang out to me.
The Tattoo Thief is an unexpected, somewhat surprising mix. Some parts were dripping in beautifully vivid descriptions of blood-soaked gore, the pain the victim suffers, the process the killer goes through flaying their victim and what happens next (read the book to find out what this is). And then you have DI Francis Sullivan, a young DI in his late twenties who is purer than the driven snow. A devout Catholic, a stickler for the rules and a complete goody-two-shoes who is tasked with investigating the terrifying spate of horrific murders to hit Brighton. Out of his depth, much? You bet he is. Especially as his more senior and experienced DS is nipping at his heels. Looking for the moment when he can knock DI Francis Sullivan from his wobbly perch and take his DI crown. But I kind of liked that; a bit of ying and yang, a touch of light and dark. It worked for me.
This was an enjoyable read but I found the characters hard to like (particularly DCI Bradshaw who is an @rse and unbelievably reckless!). Even the unlucky Marni Mullins was difficult to warm to, although I really wanted to like her. It’s not often that I come across a fellow diabetic in the novels I read so that did help…sort of. Maybe I read too much crime fiction but on a number of occasions I wanted to shake Marni hard and scream ‘you’re going to do WHAT??’ in her face. Crime fiction 101, lady!
Please don’t get me wrong. This is a wonderful debut and a very gratifying read. I’m also very much looking forward to Belsham’s next release which is published in 2019! I absolutely love the idea behind this book. This is the type of storyline I adore and Belsham has done a great job of bringing it to fruition. I just found the twists a little obvious (but then I was looking for them because that’s the kind of annoying thing I do, grrrr!).
Would I recommend this book? Yes, absolutely. I am so pleased I read The Tattoo Thief. It’s a wonderful debut, and I really enjoyed the light vs dark aspect (but I will always want it to be darker. It’s fine, I know I’m weird). If you’re a little squeamish or nervous about graphic crime novels then this may not be the book for you (although I dare you to give it a go!). An absolutely fascinating read. Recommended.
Four out of five stars.
The Tattoo Thief by Alison Belsham was published in the UK by Trapeze Books on 20th September 2018 and is available on paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |
Alison Belsham initially started writing with the ambition of becoming a screenwriter-and in 2000 was commended for her visual storytelling in the Orange Prize for Screenwriting. In 2001 she was shortlisted in a BBC Drama Writer competition. Life and children intervened but, switching to fiction, in 2009 her novel Domino was selected for the prestigious Adventures in Fiction mentoring scheme. In 2016 she pitched her first crime novel, The Tattoo Thief, at the Pitch Perfect event at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival and was judged the winner. After signing with agent Jenny Brown, The Tattoo Thief was bought by Trapeze books and published in May, 2018.
Author image and biog © http://www.alisonbelsham.com/