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.
A huge thank you to Titan Books for sending me a copy of this book and inviting me to take part in the blog tour! I will also be including an extract from the book at the end of my review!
I didn’t think it was possible for an author to cram so much into one book and still have the plot make sense but Gary Kemble blew me away. This book was filled to the brim with all different kinds of topics: corruption, politics, greed and war. It all came together to create a very unique and enjoyable story.
I haven’t read anything close to the plot of this book and I was completely shocked to learn that Strange Ink is Gary’s first novel. He did an amazing job as the plot was well-thought out and incredibly detailed. It’s very fast paced as it races though events and I could feel the tension pouring out of the pages. It flips between the past and the present as more and more tattoos start to appear which are accompanied by very gruesome nightmares. As Harry tries to wrap his head around what’s happening, he is also being hunted by gangs who want to bury what’s inside his head and on his skin for good.
Harry Hendrick is a very likeable character; he’s loyal and honest, pretty much everything you could ask for in a friend. I definitely enjoyed finding out more about him and I really enjoyed seeing the journalist side of him. I liked how he was in the dark as much as the reader and it definitely feels like you both have to uncover the truth about the tattoos and just how deep the meaning behind them goes. I also like how amazing his friends were and how they stood by his side even when it looked like he was completely losing his mind. Those are true friends right there.
One thing that I didn’t enjoy was all the politics in the story. Please note that this has nothing to do with the author or the book, this is just my personal preference. I try to avoid anything to do with politics and voting because it’s honestly not something I’m interested in. Sadly I didn’t realise how much politics this book involved and there was just pages and pages of it. My eyes did start to glaze over but I understand that it was necessary to include it because it was all very relevant to the story. I did like how one of the candidates for prime minister was actually a very corrupted and greedy man who would stop at nothing to get what he wanted. I feel it’s a pretty apt description of most of the people in power these days.
I was delighted to see that as well as drawing on every day aspects such as politics, there was also some magic and… GHOSTS! Yep! This book included ghosts which was freaking awesome and I was shaking in my chair because I was so excited. I was definitely not expecting that and it definitely gave the book a heart-stopping conclusion. The ending had me on the edge of my seat and it was such an amazing ending. The author did a fantastic job and if his writing is this good now, I can’t wait to see what his future books are like!
Harry sat in the corner of the lounge room, staring at the packing crates as the hangover squeezed his head and stomach. In one of the boxes he’d find Panadol and Nurofen and Berocca, the staples that would allow him to progress from abject misery to garden-variety misery. He just didn’t know which box.
He closed his eyes, but that was worse. The world spun. He cursed the lack of curtains, he cursed the humidity resting on his head and shoulders like a warm, wet blanket, he cursed Dave for the buck’s night, he cursed Bec for kicking him out. But most of all he cursed himself for his ability to hoard and his inability to pack in a rational, meaningful way.
Books, he’d found. Stephen King’s Dark Tower and a healthy collection of Peter Straub were absolutely no help in his current condition. He found bedding, which would have been handy at four that morning, when he stumbled in shivering. He’d been caught in a summer storm while staggering home from . . . he couldn’t quite remember. He vaguely recalled strippers.
VHS tapes, he’d found. War Games. Beverly Hills Cop 2. Evil Dead. Videos he’d doggedly held on to all these years, despite Bec’s infuriatingly logical argument that they didn’t own a VHS player anymore, so there was no point keeping the tapes.
Harry rubbed the back of his neck, which stung for some reason. It felt bruised, sunburned. Rubbing made it worse, which in turn made the headache and nausea worse. He dropped his head between his knees and concentrated on the shapes in the god-awful red carpet. Who the hell has red carpet these days?
He tried to remember what happened the night before. Remembering seemed important. He froze, hand resting on the back of his neck, snatching at the memory. A nightmare. Must’ve been a nightmare. Cold, hard light from a fluorescent bulb. When he thought about it, he recalled his Dad’s disastrous Friday-night barbecues after his Mum left. Harry didn’t get the sense the nightmare was about the barbecues, per se, but thinking of those nights made him recall damp grass, powdery soil, the stench of tobacco and beer.
Had he been bitten by something? An ant? He remembered an ant walking in confused arcs across a patch of dark earth. The memory faded even as his mind clawed for purchase. No, not an ant. It wouldn’t still hurt so much. A spider? No, that didn’t feel right either.
Harry leant forward and pulled his shirt off, sniffed it, and threw it across the room, where it landed on a box marked ‘PHOTOS’. Of course, it didn’t have photos in it. It was one of Bec’s boxes, from when they moved in together. She’d turned the middle ‘O’ into a heart. She’d kept the box because she figured it would come in handy one day. And it had. Harry closed his eyes, squeezed the bridge of his nose with thumb and forefinger, willing the memory away. The one bright spark of sick joy he took from this was that it wasn’t part of Bec’s life plan, either. She’d be suffering as much as he was.
‘Fuck,’ he said. He dragged himself to his feet and into the bedroom. He picked his iPhone off the floor, thumbed the button. Dead. Typical. He rummaged through the boxes in his room until he found the charger. He plugged in the phone, waited until it had enough juice, then knelt down so he could hold it behind his head. He snapped a photo. He stared at the screen, not believing what he was seeing. That must’ve been from the night before. A drunken photo of someone else. But that was his bedroom. His neck. And on it, a tattoo.
‘Holy shit,’ he said.
You missed one. On the back of his neck.