Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Spiral Tattoo The Spiral Tattoo
by Michael J. Parry
Sky Warrior Books

Supplied for review by Sky Warior Books

Reviewed By: Alan Robson

The Spiral Tattoo is a not very successful attempt to graft a murder mystery onto a fantasy novel. Such a feat is not impossible (Terry Pratchett did it brilliantly), but it is very difficult to do well.

On the surface the book is a hard-boiled police procedural novel. A waitress is found murdered. She is naked, but there is an intricate tattoo that spiralling around her body. Aha! A clue!

Elanore, an eight foot tall troll, and Gurt, a six inch Eleinu – that's a fairy to you and me, are the guardsmen investigating the case. It takes them all around the city of Delvenport, a city that is a kind of bastard offspring of Lankhmar and Ankh-Morepork. (I kept mis-reading the name of the city as Devenport, a place I used to visit a lot when I lived in Auckland. Perhaps the name of the city has been unfortunately chosen...).

The plot is actually not at all bad and considered as simply a police procedural story, it works quite well. Unfortunately the fantasy setting that the plot has been shoe-horned into doesn't work nearly so well. I cannot understand why the author has bothered to fill his city with trolls and elves and dwarves and all the rest of the usual suspects because he does little or nothing with them. Everybody, irrespective of race, appears to share common motives, common attitudes and even common morals (and therefore, of course, common vices). They seem to gain little or nothing from their (presumably) different cultural backgrounds. Only their physical appearences differentiate them one from another. Their characters and even their speech patterns are all fairly uniform – so much so that at times I was quite at a loss to know who was speaking.

This is a brave attempt, but as an experiment in genre fusion, it simply didn't work for me.

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