THE TATTOOED MAN is the second novel from Alex Palmer - Blood Redemption won the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Crime Novel in 2003.
This book certainly starts out with a bang - the grisly murder scene is bad enough with a man, a woman and a teenage boy - all shot once in the head. Brutal. The mummified body of the missing NSW policeman adds a more than surreal and grisly touch - it's totally inexplicable. He's been missing for quite some time, but what is his connection with these dinner guests?
What eventuates is a mysterious and very very complicated set of events around illicit biotechnology, corruption, big business, fraud and con schemes, politics and espionage. At the centre of this Harrigan, who is actually trying to take some time off, finds himself fighting internal police department politics and corruption at the same time as he tries to direct a team who are investigating the bizarre crime scene. He is also trying to build a relationship with Grace and hang onto his relationship with his severely disabled son Toby.
If all of that sounds complicated, then that is probably where the book fails to fully satisfy. After a good start, with the discovery of the scene, the initial parts of the investigation and the build up of Harrigan, Grace and Toby's life the investigation starts to take its course. Unfortunately it is pretty quickly overtaken by a very twisting and turning plot that rapidly becomes overly convoluted, with a cast of too many and too many threats on too many fronts to keep up the pace and intensity that is palpable in the early part of the book. The plot is certainly well constructed and maintained by the writer, but for this reader it all got a bit too much and attention started to wan dramatically. Finishing the whole book was made possible, however, by some accomplished pieces of writing and a genuine interest in where Harrigan's life would end up.
Worth a look, as this is only the second novel from this writer, THE TATTOOED MAN will possibly appeal to fans of the first book - BLOOD REDEMPTION.