Review: A Good and Useful Hurt by Aric Davis

Published by 47north
Released February 21, 2012
302 pages
Where I got it: Review copy received from publisher
Rating: 4 stars

Description from Amazon:

Mike is a tattoo artist running his own shop, and Deb is the piercing artist he hires to round out the motley crew at his studio of four. The last thing either expects is romance, but that’s exactly what happens when they follow their off-kilter careers and love lives into complete disaster.

When Mike follows a growing trend and tattoos the ashes of deceased loved ones into several customers’ tattoos, he has no idea that it will one day provide the solution—and solace—he will sorely need. And when the life of a serial killer tragically collides with the lives of those in the tattoo shop, Mike and Deb will stop at nothing in their quest for revenge, even if it means stepping outside the known boundaries of life and death.

Ink that is full of crematory ashes, a sociopathic killer, and pain in its most raw form combine for one of the most imaginative, haunting thrillers in recent memory. Full of wit and heart, A Good and Useful Hurt delivers the goods with the pain of a needle in skin.

When I was approached to review this book, I agreed because there was a serial killer aspect and I like a good thriller. I knew that there was a tattoo shop focus, which I was largely indifferent to, as I have no tattoos and never plan to get one. I’m really glad I agreed to review A Good and Useful Hurt, because it was a well-written, engrossing book with a lot of passion behind the writing, and a really compelling story.

There is a serial killer in this book, and he commits some disgusting murders. However, he really isn’t the center of the story. Instead, it’s the slightly broken but big-hearted tattoo artist, Mike. Mike’s still getting over the suicide of his girlfriend five years earlier when he hires a new piercer for his shop, Deb. She’s spunky and kind of crazy, but slowly works at bringing him out of his shell and showing him that no matter what’s happened in the past, you can move on and learn from the pain.

The characters in this book are great. Deb is a really strong woman, unafraid to live her life the way she wants, and with a strong moral compass. Mike’s best friend, and other tattoo artist, Lamar, adds yet another voice and sub-plot to the story. Best of all, though, was Mike’s client and friend Doc. Doc is an older gay man, a professor of psychology, who loves getting tattooed but hides that portion of his life from his friends and family. He’s supportive of Mike, but still afraid to show his true self to his family for fear of ridicule.

Davis places the reader fully into the setting of the tattoo parlor. Even though I’ve never been inside of one, I got a real feel for what goes on there, and what the tattoos and piercings mean to both the artists and the clients. I really enjoyed peeking into this world and being able to live it for a little while, especially since I don’t anticipate ever going in person.

There is a slight supernatural aspect to this book, which I would have rather not had, but it’s necessary for the plot. Once it was introduced, I was able to accept it for what it was and move on. Just be aware that you’ll need to suspend your disbelief at one point if you’re to enjoy the book completely.

A Good and Useful Hurt turned out to be a surprisingly sweet and moving read, and I recommend it for fans of thrillers and books about heartbreak, tats or no.

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