|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.
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
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