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Tattoo (1976)

by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Pepe Carvalho (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
309967,686 (3.38)24
"One of the finest examples of European 'noir' literature."--John Harvey "Montalb#65533;n writes with authority and compassion--a Le Carr#65533;-like sorrow."--Publishers Weekly 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 indentifying it is through a tattoo that says "Born to raise hell in hell." Manuel V#65533;zquez Montalb#65533;n was born in Barcelona in 1939. He won both the Raymond Chandler Prize and the French Grand Prix of Detective Fiction for his thrillers. He died in 2003.… (more)
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» See also 24 mentions

English (7)  French (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (9)
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Vázquez Montalbán's character Pepe Carvalho first appeared in Yo maté a Kennedy in 1972, but at that point he was still a CIA agent: it was only in this second appearance that he took on his long-term role as a Barcelona private eye. He seems to have been doing private work for some time when we first meet him — in the bed of his sex-worker girlfriend Charo — but he hasn't yet acquired an office or an assistant. He does, however, already seem to have picked up very high standards where food and drink are concerned, and it is in this book that he first hits on the scheme of selecting books from his extensive library to use as firelighters.

The messenger who drags him out of Charo's bed proves to have been sent by Ramón, owner of a local hairdressing business, who commissions Pepe to discover what he can about a dead man recently found in the sea off a bathing beach, whose only identifying feature is a distinctive tattoo. But it has to be strictly private: Ramón doesn't want Pepe to have anything to do with the police investigation.

The tattoo soon leads Pepe to the Netherlands, where he experiences the joys of hippie-era Amsterdam (rijstafel, herring sandwiches, Paradiso, an unwanted bathe in the canal...) and gives us his impressions of The Hague and Rotterdam as well. And it's not long before he knows who the tattooed man was and what he was mixed up in, but that still leaves open the more interesting question of why a backstreet hairdresser should be interested...

Fun, in a predictably dark and cynical way, with some interesting period detail of Barcelona and Holland, and a great deal of outstanding food. ( )
  thorold | Aug 16, 2021 |
Your basic noir mystery: cynical, world-weary, world-worn detective, low-life women, murder, drugs and, of course, a beating for our friend. Except he is a gourmand, a cook, a Catalan who shares recipes. And gets a blurb from a food writer.
I expected more after reading the Buenos Aires Quintet: more politics, more commentary, more life--but this book was written/published in the time of Franco, and I suspect only low life description was possible in those days. ( )
  kerns222 | May 25, 2018 |
This is an early entry in Montalban's series about Pepe Carvalho, a tough-guy private eye in Barcelona. It was written in the 1970's, and Barcelona seems to have been a grimmer and grittier place than it is today. The descriptions of food and travel are interesting, and the story eventually caught hold for me, but the hard-boiled PI -- of any nationality -- is not my favorite hero. Good of its kind, but I doubt I will read another in the series. ( )
  annbury | Aug 9, 2014 |
When I learned on LT that Camilleri named the delightful Inspector Montalbano in homage to Montalbán and his detective protagonist, Pepe Carvalho, I knew I had to read at least one book by him. And while Carvalho and Montalbán can't compare to Montalbano and Camilleri, I mostly enjoyed this book and would probably read more novels about Carvalho.

Pepe Carvalho is a freelance detective and, we learn, former CIA agent, in Franco-era Barcelona; his girlfriend is a prostitute and he carries a gun and a knife around with him. In this book, the owner of a beauty salon asks Carvalho to find out the name of a mysterious man who winds up dead in the water, a man who has a tattoo on his back saying "Born to raise hell in hell." Carvalho is suspicious because the man is paying him a lot for this information when he could go to the police, and in the aftermath of the discovery of the body the police start closing down bars and brothels. Carvalho's investigation takes him to Amsterdam and Rotterdam, and then back to Barcelona, with a variety of twists and turns. There was more violence, and more graphic violence, in this novel that in the Camilleris, and some of it was a little disturbing.

Like Montalbano, Carvalho is a gourmet, and the descriptions of the meals he cooked and ate in restaurants were just as delightful as those in Camilleri. The atmospherics of Barcelona and Amsterdam were the strong point of this novel, more so than the plot, although it was ingeniously plotted. And, except for his violent streak, I enjoyed the Carvalho's character.

My edition, published by Melville House in their International Crime series, was marred by sloppy proofreading: "selef" for "self" and a line that broke in the middle of the page for no reason, for example.
  rebeccanyc | Mar 16, 2014 |
A man looks at a woman, and she says yer or no. Or the other way round. The rest is culture.
  Peppuzzo | May 25, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Un cuerpo de hombre joven desnudo sobre la arena, y en la piel, un tatuaje: «He nacido para revolucionar el infierno.» Nace un enigma y nace un investigador privado, Pepe Carvalho, que a lo largo de la historia descubre la azarosa vida de superviviente de un hombre que tenía buena entrada con las mujeres. La retina de Carvalho le permite descubrir las pistas que conducen a la solución, pero también describir el entorno social y sentimental que ha hecho posible el crimen. Tatuaje, primera novela en la que Carvalho ejerce como investigador privado fue llevada al cine por Bigas Luna.
added by Pakoniet | editLecturalia
 

» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Manuel Vázquez Montalbánprimary authorall editionscalculated
Caistor, NickTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"Era bello e biondo come la birra
sul petto aveva un cuore tatuato
nella sua voce amara c'era la tristezza
addolorata e stanca della fisarmonica" Canzone di Rafael de Leon
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Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
La ragazza dal corpo dorato si tuffò dal pattíno e l'uomo olivastro e calvo diede alcune bracciate decise per avvicinarla, osservare il suo ritorno in superficie, sorprendere il luccichio della carne umida spruzzata dall'acqua e dal sole.
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"One of the finest examples of European 'noir' literature."--John Harvey "Montalb#65533;n writes with authority and compassion--a Le Carr#65533;-like sorrow."--Publishers Weekly 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 indentifying it is through a tattoo that says "Born to raise hell in hell." Manuel V#65533;zquez Montalb#65533;n was born in Barcelona in 1939. He won both the Raymond Chandler Prize and the French Grand Prix of Detective Fiction for his thrillers. He died in 2003.

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