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THE TATTOOED MAP Reviewed
The Tattooed Map
by Barbara Hodgson
THE TATTOOED MAP is described as the first novel from author Barbara Hodgson, but is it also a fantastically detailed art book. Much like the Griffin and Sabine series by Nick Bantock, this slim volume mixes fantasy fiction and realistic imagery to tell its story.
The book is a travel journal belonging to a woman named Lydia. She is embarking on a trip with her friend and partner Christopher, a trip that is supposed to be like many they have taken over the years. He buys antiques as he travels for people. They are traveling to Morocco this trip. The notes and scribbles alongside the diary entries show travel packing lists, notes about fellow travelers, and cribbage scores. Entries include comments about things that happen as they are traveling and interactions the couple has.
The entry dated April 10th is where things start to shift. Lydia notes that she wakes up with a cluster of flea bites on her hand. Over the course of several entries, she describes the bites instead as turning into a map, a tattoo that grows up her hand and arm. She meets a man at a cafe who has a similar tattoo. She bandages her arm to hide the design from Christopher, determined to figure out the mysterious connection on her own.
And then suddenly, itís early May and the person writing is Christopher. It turns out Lydia disappeared on May 4th and the journal entries continue the book forward, now being written by a second first-person voice.
The time frame of the novel spans from early April into July. Although the smaller portion of the entries are penned by Lydia, she firmly establishes background about herself and her viewpoint of her long-term relationship with Christopher. Once the voice changes to his, itís interesting to see how his character truly is, and for him to read Lydiaís opinions of him, herself and their relationship. Itís almost as if they didnít really know each other despite a long association.
The artistic details expand on the settings and atmosphere of the journal. Images include travel ticket and postcard reproductions, random handwritten notes, maps of Marrakech and Tangiers, along with police reports and news clippings to go with Lydiaís disappearance. Portions of the art and notes are in French and Arabic, duplicating exactly the bits and pieces of paper that one picks up when traveling. There are even a few photographs that Christopher finds on film Lydia has shot and which he has developed.
The flavor of the story is a mix of romance, mystery and fantasy. Who was the man that Lydia met at at the cafe? Now the Christopher realizes the took Lydiaís presence for granted for so many years, will he be able to read her diary and figure out what happened to her? The book ends at the beginning of a new mystery, one not necessarily designed to spur a sequel title. Itís more a suggestion that surrendering to the mystery may be the best way to enjoy it.
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