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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.
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Pepe Carvalho is a phlegmatic investigator. His greatest concern is with his stomach, but when not pursuing delicacies, he can unravel the most tangled of mysteries. (Sunday Times)
Montalbán is a writer who is caustic about the powerful and tender towards the oppressed. (TLS)
Montalbán does for Barcelona what Chandler did for Los Angeles - he exposes the criminal power relationships beneath the facade of democracy. (Guardian)
Montalban writes with authority and compassion - a Le Carré-like sorrow. (Publishers Weekly)
Tattoo is a breathlessly complusive page-turner. (Alex Donohue The Big Issue Wales 2008-08-26)
Sex, death and food in Barcelona? It has to be a winner. (N/A Spain magazine 2008-09-01)
[W]ell worth reading. (Susanna Yager Sunday Telegraph 2008-08-31)
[A] welcome first appearence in Englsih... Distinctive and abrasive, Tattoo is a good introduction to Montalbán if you haven't tried him before. (Andrew Taylor Spectator 2008-10-11)
[B]etter than most crime writers' best. (Marcel Berlins The Times 2008-10-18)
This is a well-trailed, nicely plotted murder mystery - with plenty of misdirected leads. (Gerald Kaufman The Scotsman 2009-01-17)
Manuel Vázquez Montalbán was born in Barcelona in 1939. He was a journalist, novelist and creator of Pepe Carvalho, a fast-living, gourmet private detective. Montalbán won both the Raymond Chandler Prize and the French Grand Prix of Detective Fiction for his thrillers, which are translated into all major languages. He died in October 2003.
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