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Tattoo: A Pepe Carvalho Mystery (Pepe Carvalho Mysteries) Paperback – February 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Those who prefer getting inside characters' heads to figuring out whodunit will enjoy this mystery in Montalbán's series featuring food-loving PI Pepe Carvalho (Buenos Aires Quintet, etc.), first published in Spain in 1976. When the corpse of an unknown man with the words Born to Raise Hell in Hell tattooed on his shoulder surfaces off the Barcelona coast, Ramón Freixas, a hair salon owner, asks Carvalho to investigate. For reasons he doesn't share with the gumshoe, Freixas wants the victim identified. The tattoo's trail takes the detective to Amsterdam, where he figures out the murder was related to the drug trade. Carvalho's cynicism (he divides the world into those who go to jail and those who might go to jail) will make him a familiar figure to hard-boiled devotees. The final twist will appeal to readers comfortable with some ambiguity. (Feb.)
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From Booklist

Former cop and current Barcelona PI Pepe Carvalho is content with his life, eating the best foods and dating a high-class prostitute. He only takes on cases that intrigue him, such as that of the tattooed man found washed up on a public beach with no leads to his identity except the tattoo (“Born to raise Hell in Hell”) inscribed across his back. When a local shopkeeper asks Pepe to find out who the man is, Pepe agrees, and soon the trail takes him to Amsterdam, one of his favorite cities. Just as when Carvalho is home in Barcelona, good eating often take precedence over the investigation at hand, and sightseeing only addss to the burden. The slow pace of the investigation is enlivened by Montalban’s descriptions of both Barcelona and Amsterdam, as well as by the fully fleshed secondary characters, from Pepe’s hooker girlfriend to the hairdresser who initially hires him. Recommend this one to fans of Roderic Jeffries’ Enrique Alvarez, the Mallorcan inspector with a taste for good food and slowly paced investigations that easily matches Carvalho. --Jessica Moyer

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Product Details

  • Series: Pepe Carvalho Mysteries
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail (February 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846686679
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846686672
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,726,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ted Feit VINE VOICE on April 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
An entry in a popular series about Pepe Carvalho, an unusual character who is a private investigator and a gourmet based in Barcelona, this novel was published many years ago in Europe and more recently translated with grace a couple of years ago. The publisher is to be congratulated in reprinting and releasing "Tattoo" and another, "The Man of My Life" (review to follow shortly), in February, among others in this series. Pepe is a charming rascal, with an intriguing background, having had an apparently successful career before he walked away from the CIA to undertake his more or less relaxed profession in his native Spain.

Pepe is retained for a hefty sum by the husband of a local hairdresser to identify a body pulled out of the sea with a face so badly destroyed that the only identification is a tattoo on the back reading "Born to Raise Hell in Hell." Barcelona police attribute the death to local prostitutes and drug dealers and sweep up these elements off the street. Pepe's investigation leads him to Amsterdam, where the victim worked briefly and apparently was involved with a drug gang. But the mystery is not so simple.

The descriptions of Amsterdam, Pepe's appetite for good food, and observations about Barcelona are all interesting, as is Pepe's sex life and relations with Charo, his long-time love [who happens to be a full-time prostitute with a high-class clientele], among others.

Sadly, Montalban died in October of 2003, but we are fortunate that he left such worthy works behind.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Booker G on September 27, 2011
Format: Paperback
"Tattoo" is one of earliest installments in the Pepe Carvalho mysteries by Manuel Vazquez Montalban. Carvalho is a private detective in Barcelona, Spain. In Carvalho, Montalban has created a rather unique character in the mystery genre, as Pepe is a former resolute communist, a former CIA agent, a former political prisoner, a gourmet (particularly as relates to the food in Catalonia where Barcelona is located), and a sort of anti-intellectual who uses the theoretical and political books from his library to start fires in his fireplace. He also has a girlfriend, Charo, who is a prostitute.

In "Tattoo" Carvalho is hired by the owner of a beauty salon to identify a dead man who has been found on a local beach with his face eaten off by the fishes. He has a very unusual tattoo, which is the only real means of identification. This plot involves Carvalho in the seamy side of life in Barcelona and in Amsterdam.

Montalban does a great job with this plot. I was involved in the story at all times. The level of complexity is excellent. The resolution is perfect. The characters are varied and portrayed seemingly with authenticity (what do I know about life in Barcelona, after all?). This is a very good mystery with some great descriptions of gourmet food thrown in. Just a real thumbs up for this book.

For more mystery series that may entertain you, check out my website describing and reviewing many series (see my Amazon profile for the URL).
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on February 5, 2010
Format: Paperback
Former Barcelona cop, Pepe Carvalho earns a living as a private investigator. However sleuthing is not on the short list of what he loves. Instead his first, second, third and nth love is women especially gourmet dining with beautiful females. He also enjoys on a summer night to use his fireplace burning a book a night especially if a woman joins him.

Two people swimming off a public beach find a badly devoured corpse as the fish dined on the victim's face. On his back is a tattoo "Born to Raise Hell in Hell". After having a tryst interrupted, Senor Ramon Freixas, husband of Senora Queter the hairdresser salon owner, hires Carvalho to find out who the deceased is though he refuses to explain his interest in the corpse. The sleuth starts with neighborhood tattoo shops that lead Carvalho to Amsterdam where he is persona non grata by law enforcement officials and drug gangs.

This is an entertaining Spanish private investigative Noir starring a wonderful cynic who classifies people as: those in jail; those who should be in jail, beautiful women who cherish his mind and body; and gourmet chefs. Fans will enjoy the whodunit that takes a deep look at the underbelly of European society while marveling at an age when chauvinists were acceptable and a person could fly through airport security carrying weapons.

Harriet Klausner
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tropical Gal on November 24, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you are a fan of Inspector Montalbano, read this book. It's a light, witty and generally fun read set in the 1970's. Pepe Carvalho is a ex-communist gourmet & book burner searching for the identity of a disfigured corpse. The plot is no better or worse than that of many other detective stories but Pepe is unforgettable. As may have been mentioned by other reviewers, Inspector Montalbano was named in honor of the author of this series: Manuel Vasquez Montalban.
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Format: Paperback
I recently became a fan of Andrea Camilerri's police inspector Salvo Montalbano and discovered that the protagonist of this series is a fan of the Barcelona PI Pepe Carvalho mysteries (written in the '70s by Spaniard Manuel Vázquez Montalbán). So, being curious by nature, I discovered this very interesting and entertaining character when I picked up TATTOO at my local library. Sadly, I discovered that this is the only book in the series available to me through the library system.

There are many similarities between Camilerri's Inspector Montalbano (homicide detective inspector in the city of Vigáta in Sicily) and PI Pepe Carvalho. The primary ones being a tenacious need to solve a mystery, regardless of possible bodily injury from the thugs they are after, and a very discriminating palate when it comes to food. I think, being gourmets, they prefer savoring the joy of eating good food to even being with the few people they know and like. Of course there are the women they truly do love in their lives, Montalbano's Livia and Carvalho's Charo, but these beautiful women always take a backseat to the obsessive drive their men have when they pursue justice...each in his own way and usually outside of the law.

I highly recommend TATTOO and am looking forward to reading another Pepe Carvalhos mystery. 5 Stars

FYI I've just ordered the Pepe Carvalho mystery THE BUENOS AIRES QUINTET from Amazon.
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