Title – Strange Ink
Author – Gary Kemble
Publisher/Published – Titan Books/October 2018
Genre – Fiction/Horror
Pages – 397
Summary from Goodreads
Spine-chilling horror in the vein of Joe Hill. After moving into a new house, journalist Harry Hendrick wakes up with tattoos that aren’t his…
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.
3 out of 5 Stars
I love the cover of this book and that’s what initially drew me in and then I read the description and thought it would be a book I would enjoy.
Unfortunately it wasn’t for me, I loved the premise of the plot but I found it slow burning and it took me ages to read the book. There were parts I enjoyed and there were parts I felt dragged out a bit.
I did like the main character Harry and I liked the progression of his character.
I did like the authors writing style and I would recommend people to read this because I feel like there are a lot of people that would enjoy this book.
Disclaimer – I received this book for free from the publishers in exchange for an honest review, this does not however affect my opinion.
Excerpt from the book
West End was buzzing, people coming alive as the temperature dropped ahead of the incoming storm. Harry climbed out of his car and negotiated a path down the pavement, past an eclectic collection of cafes, bars and grocery stores, to where Dave had parked. Suits sipped wine and imported beer, jostling for space with Gen Y hipsters slurping coffee and jabbing at their iPhones, and worldweary locals who’d seen it all.
West End Tattoo had a low-key shopfront. No gaudy artwork on the window, venetian blinds to discourage gawkers. Harry had walked past the place dozens of times without realising it was a tattoo parlour.
‘Now, when we get in there, let me do the talking,’ Dave said. ‘You don’t want to piss them off, okay?’
Harry was angry, but the anger was offset by a sickening feeling in his stomach. He was sweating, his heart racing. It wasn’t all the hangover, and he wasn’t scared of a looming confrontation. He had to ask plenty of hard questions in his job. Questions people would rather not answer. In his personal life he found confrontation harder to deal with, but he could still flip the ‘journalist’ switch if he had to.
The place looked just as foreign as every other time he’d passed it. So much so that as Dave pushed the door open, he knew what the result was going to be. No. No, we did not do that tattoo. Sorry, pal. A shrug. A see ya later. Which would leave Harry facing the prospect that he had been so bombed he actually went out of his way to get the tattoo. What else had he done, and couldn’t remember?
Harry jumped. Dave was staring at him.
‘Not really. None of this is familiar,’ he said, shaking his head.
The walls were covered in framed tattoo designs. On the far side of the small room a woman sat behind a counter. People were crammed in shoulder to shoulder on bench seating around the other three sides of the room. A young guy with bleached blond hair clutched an art folder. A woman with a pram flicked through a magazine. From the doorway behind the counter, tattoo machines buzzed. Stairs led up to the second storey, and Harry could hear more tattooing going on up there.
The woman behind the counter looked up. ‘Hey, Dave!’
The ring through the middle of her lip glistened when she smiled. She wore a vintage dress: red flowers on a cream background. Her hair was pinned up, revealing the art that cascaded from her neck down over her shoulders and under the fabric of her dress, before continuing out from under the sleeves and down her arms. Flowers, faces and intricate scrollwork.
She nodded at Harry. ‘Brought in a convert?’
‘Kinda. Um . . .’
‘I’ve already got a tattoo,’ Harry said. ‘I just don’t know how I got it.’
Dave seemed happy to let Harry do the talking, once he realised he wasn’t going to explode. When he finished the story, she shook her head.
‘You haven’t even looked at it!’ Harry said, a little louder than he intended.
Sian’s lips set in a firm line. Dave touched her arm. ‘He’s a little . . . Things have been a bit fucked up lately.’
Her eyes flicked to Dave and her face softened a little.
‘Well, for a start, we’re not some 1950s dockside operation. We don’t open at night unless someone’s got an appointment. Even if we were open, we wouldn’t be doing walk-ins. There’s a two-month waiting list for most of the artists here. And even when we do walk-ins, we don’t tattoo people if they’re wasted. Too much grief for all involved.’
Harry blinked. The rising anger dissipated. Now he could feel a lump in his throat. Sian rolled her eyes.
‘Let’s have a look at it then,’ she said.
She came out from behind the counter, pushed Harry’s head forward a little more roughly than was necessary.
‘Hmm. I was gonna say you might’ve got it done at Stones Corner. But this doesn’t even look like it’s been done with a tattoo machine. The edges aren’t defined enough. Looks more like krob kru.’
‘Buddhist monks in Thailand have a ceremony where they tattoo people using shafts of bamboo. Mix the ink with snake venom. It’s pretty full on.’
‘I think I’d remember that.’
‘Yeah. You’d think so, right?’
She let go of his shirt, and he turned to face her.
‘It’s weird though,’ she said, frowning.
Harry rubbed his neck. ‘Oh yeah? It gets weirder?’
‘Yeah. They’re not krob kru tattoos. I mean, it’s not a krob kru design. In fact, it looks kinda Persian.’
‘Don’t suppose you happen to know what it means?’
‘Um. Offhand, no. Sorry.’