by Sukey HowardMarch 2007
Treachery past and present
Mystery and history mix well in crime fiction. Add a literary twist, a well-drawn cast of characters and a marvelously multilayered plot that moves from a crime-ridden London housing project to the bucolic Lake District and from the early 19th century to the present, and you've got the bare bones of Val McDermid's latest, The Grave Tattoo, read by Kate Reading, who gets gender, age and accent just right. The literary lure is a long-hidden lengthy poem by William Wordsworth, worth lots more than words, that tells Fletcher Christian's side of that nasty business on the Bounty. When a desiccated body with South Seas tattoos washes out of a bog, it brings Jane Gresham, a Lake District native and scrupulous Wordsworth scholar, back from London in hot pursuit of the poem she's long believed existed. She's not the only one after the prize and when the elderly folk Jane is interviewing start dying, the many plots thicken and the dangers quicken. McDermid tells it all with her usual flair and ends each chapter with a tantalizingly crafted entry from the diary Christian could have given Wordsworth.