DI Francis Sullivan has been assigned his first case. He may be the youngest DI the department has had, but what he lacks in age he makes up for with passion and smarts. A partially flayed body was discovered near a tattoo convention in Brighton, leaving Sullivan and his colleagues without clues or motives. When a second body is discovered with missing flesh, Sullivan considers that the killer is removing tattoos from victims as trophies.
In an attempt to navigate the world of body art, Sullivan calls on the knowledge of tattoo artist Marni Mullins, who found the first body. With her connections and history, she is able to provide the police with valuable insights into the intricacies of ink and skin, and identify the next target.
The Tattoo Thief is a great adventure from the first page. As a tattooed person, I amused to the stereotype of tattooed literary characters being described with disdain – they’re the bad guys or the promiscuous women with dark pasts. Not so now – it is refreshing to have people’s preconceptions exposed so well and proven incorrect. Belsham’s characters literally embody the warning of judging books by their covers.
In addition to a satisfying portrayal of a variety of characters, who feel as real and tangible as any person who could pick up this book, Belsham provides a sense of tension through the possibility of imminent danger, which is as addictive as it is exciting. In this refreshingly unexpected plot, the reader is given a unique take on the motivations behind macabre acts.
I’ve always been a fan of whodunits with twisted horrors, but Alison Belsham has penned an extraordinarily artistic narrative which is rare and tasteful, affording The Tattoo Thief an unmatched brilliance in the genre. There's something to be said for a whodunit with a completely unpredictable ending in a world flooded with mediocre crime novels. The only problem I encountered while reading this was the realisation that I would have to wait for the sequel – but I have no doubt I will relish the delicious anticipation.
The Tattoo Thief by Alison Belsham is published by Trapeze Books, an imprint of Orion Publishing, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.