Tattoo, Paperback
3 out of 5 (1 rating)


Pepe Carvalho, ex-cop, ex-marxist and constant gourmet, is working as a private detective in Barcelona, when a body is pulled out of the sea, its face so badly destroyed that the only way of identifying it is through a tattoo that says: 'Born to raise hell in hell'.

A local hairdresser hires Carvalho to find out who the man is.

Meanwhile, the Barcelona police make a connection between the murder and local drug dealers and prostitutes, and they begin raiding bars and brothels.

A lead on the identity of the murdered man brings Carvalho to Amsterdam, where he gets entangled with a drug gang.

As the pace accelerates, Carvalho realises that this is no straightforward John Doe case.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Crime & mystery
  • ISBN: 9781846686672



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Tattoo is a mystery novel, skirting the edge of noir yet not as edgy as one would expect in that particular genre. Although Montalbán is known to be one inspiration for Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano series, the main character, Pepe Carvalho, is much darker in character than Camilleri's protagonist, and this novel is not at all as lighthearted as Camilleri's in tone, although it does have its moments.The basic story revolves around the discovery of a drowned man floating in the ocean and the search for his identity. Shortly after the dead man is pulled on to the shore, he is turned over on his back, where onlookers discovered he had no face -- it had been eaten away by fishes. Quickly turning him over once again, a child discovers a tattoo on his shoulder blade reading "Born to raise Hell in Hell." Senor Ramon, a local hairdresser and businessman, hires Pepe Carvalho to discover the identity of the dead man, and "what he did in life." He refuses to explain why he wants to know this information, and is willing to pay Carvalho handsomely for his time. The investigation will not only lead Pepe to the Netherlands and to the seedy back streets of Barcelona, but will leave him black and blue in the process. The plot is so-so, although the mystery aspect keeps the reader focused on the story, especially while Carvalho is in the Netherlands. Some of those scenes were downright funny while some prompted the reader to wonder why he goes through what he does there. I mean, you want to keep reading and find out who the dead guy is, why he was killed, and above all, why his identity is important to the owner of a hairdressing shop. The action moves quickly, but it's Carvalho's outlook on life and on Spain that are the most interesting facets of this novel. It makes for interesting and intriguing enough reading that I've already ordered the next one in the series, The Angst-Ridden Executive, which is also published by Serpent's Tail, and recently found a few more books in this series that I didn't realize I had hidden on my international crime fiction tbr shelves.Would I recommend it? Yes -- it's more than readable, with its lightly-plotted storyline and the thread of mystery running through the novel, but beware of the oddness of Carvalho's personality in a few places. He's definitely not a character for everyone.

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