Book Reviews

Strange Ink – Gary Kemble


I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.

When washed-up journalist Harry Hendrick wakes one morning with a hangover and a strange symbol tattooed on his neck, he shrugs it off as a bad night out. But soon more tattoos appear: grisly, violent images which come accompanied by horrific nightmares – so he begins to dig deeper. Harry’s search leads him to a sinister disappearance, torment from beyond the grave, and a web of corruption and violence tangled with his own past. One way or another, he has to right the wrongs.

I really enjoyed this book. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started it but it quickly grew on me. Harry has just moved into his new place when he awakes with a strange tattoo on his neck. Unsure what to think of it he puts it down to a night out and tries to move on. Throughout the novel more tattoos begin on Harry and after he sees a woman in one of his dreams, unable to shake the feeling she is important, he seeks her out to finally begin unravelling this mystery.

One of the first things I loved about this book was how refreshing it was. I haven’t read a book like it before and it really added something new to the fantasy genre; the idea of tattoo physically carrying memories was something you think would have been written about before and if it has, Strange Ink has done it better.

Harry’s journey is not only one of the self, but one of mystery as he tries to figure out his role in this revenge story. We see him as he tries to fight against the rage of Rob who inhabits him through the tattoos as Rob tries to take control and enact his revenge against Cardinal for the carnage his has inflicted on others. He walks a double-edged sword throughout which sees him fight himself, Rob and an entire political party.

I really liked Harry as a character, his ability to suspend belief as quickly as he did certainly helped with my ability to suspend belief. I also loved how his investigative journalism led him to find out more information for himself and show another side to the journalism world which he doesn’t really doo too much anymore, for obvious reasons. I liked how even buying land, something which you wouldn’t really think would have much to do with the plot was such a key point. Kemble has you constantly thinking throughout as Harry investigates further.

Harry’s backstory, while saddening, was enough to drive him forward to find a way to help Rob to move on and find peace. It is Rob’s story and rage however, which is the driving force throughout the novel.

Even though Harry wanted to give into Rob plenty of times he showed an even greater strength of character despite all that Rob has been through. Kemble has woven the past into the present with great clarity through Harry’s dreams and each memory was clearly chosen and described as being a moment of significance in Rob’s life; to then attach those to tattoos was a brilliant plot point.

The conclusion, while it didn’t feel like it was building to that with the amount of control Rob was having, certainly was the best conclusion; combining Harry’s and Rob’s interests. There was never going to be a solution which worked for them both but to find that common ground while not able to communicate conventionally worked really well.

It is a shame I didn’t really ‘click’ with any of the other characters but that’s my only niggle. They were all two dimensional and apart from Jess only felt like they were there to move the plot along. I didn’t really see the point in bringing in Harry’s ex or talking about her at the end. While everybody likes a happy ending, the happy ending in this story is Rob’s in my mind.

To conclude, this is a really well written book with a great, new plot that will have you turning the pages well into the night. There are niggles but the plot, Harry and Rob, more than make up for it. If you have a chance make sure you pick up a copy!

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If you have a chance, make sure to check out all these great bloggers for their thoughts on the novel!

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