Mike owns a tattoo parlor, and he just hired the quirky and beautiful Deb to work as his piercer. Mike is increasingly asked to tattoo people with the ashes of deceased loved ones. So people randomly stop in the shop and request that Mike mix some ashes with the ink and go to town. As it turns out, this type of tattoo magically enables the individual to interact with the dead person through dreams. Yeah.
On top of this, Mike and Deb are in the beginning stages of a relationship when Deb is murdered by a serial killer. Of course, Mike uses some of her ashes to tattoo himself, and thereby embarks on a supernatural journey to find Deb’s killer and to avenge her death.
Based on my summary alone, I really don’t know that my additional commentary is necessary here. But I can’t help it. I liked the cover of this book. That is literally the only reason I read it; I didn’t even read the synopsis on the back of the book. I should have. I like tattoos, and I like the supernatural – they just don’t really mesh together.
Davis adopts the tactic of switching perspectives, going back and forth between his protagonist and the serial killer. This was vaguely reminiscent of Dean Koontz’s Watchers, but not nearly as effective. Davis’ killer isn’t as complex, so his viewpoint just feels like a grisly interruption of the plot.
All in all, A Good and Useful Hurt is a quick read, it’s just an awkward quick read. Aric Davis steals liberally from the horror masters (there is a grave robbery scene that is almost verbatim from Pet Sematary), and we get the feeling that he is struggling to find himself as an author. Hopefully, he will come into his own by his next novel. In the meantime, I’d rather reread Watchers and Pet Sematary.