Jonathan Maberry has been a common name in my book shelf for years. Patient Zero (with big time hunk Stanley Tucci) is pure gold. When I was a kid, I devoured those X-Files books like it was my job. I think I still have them packed up in my giant box of X-File paraphernalia that I refuse to get rid of. I mean, everyone needs Mulder and Scully action figures and buttons from the VHS launch of I Want to Believe and you absolutely cannot tell me differently. So while I'm not familiar with all of the crossover references in Ink, I was thrilled to be approve for this title.
In the small Pennsylvania town of Pine Deep, something strange is happening. Someone is stealing tattoos--and with them, he's taking the memories. Feeding off the pain and trauma, the Lord of the Flies makes his way from one tattoo to the next. This time, however, is different, and Patty Cakes, a tattoo artist, unites with her skip tracer friend, a sexually-confused housewife, and an imposing police officer in order to figure out who is stealing their memories--and how to stop him before it's too late. There is *a lot* happening in this book, and most of it is stellar. First, I found this concept to be a super interesting take on vampire narratives. This isn't your typical blood sucker. You won't find Owen Minor sleeping in a coffin in the basement, repelled by garlic and crucifixes. The psychological aspect worked well here, and I really appreciated the commentary on the philosophy behind tattoos. If you come from a family like mind, ink can be somewhat taboo, and Maberry did an excellent job extrapolating meaning, significance, and personal histories into each individual ink described. There are a fair amount of characters given the spotlight. Dianna and Monk were probably my favorites, and in a way, polar opposites of each other. I thought they were a bit flat/stereotypical at times, and that kept me from really loving them, but overall, their arcs were well-developed and I enjoyed their pages. Where Maberry excels is with his portrayal of Owen. the Lord of the Flies. There wasn't a moment I didn't find myself completely disgusted by him. The other characters' loathing and wariness leapt off the pages, and the slimy villain factor was palpable. Without spoilers, I wanted more from his ending--more of his voice, a bigger battle--something that lived up to the monumental control he seemed to have over the others. This book also showcases a diverse range of sexualities, ethnicities, and belief systems. An eclectic mix, to say the very least, and it was satisfying when the stories finally wove together. On a readability level, I will add that I thought the pacing was a little on the slow side, but that's not to say there wasn't a ton of creepy, off-putting, or questionable moments along the way. I also was a little distracted by just how often "very large breasts" were mentioned, compared, or described in great detail. You can only read about areolas for so long before you start asking if it's really pertinent. Overall, Ink is an unnerving, visceral, blood-lusting read with plenty of gore and heartbreak. I'd recommend to any longtime Maberry fans, obviously, but also anyone looking for a different kind of vampire book. Big thank you to St. Martin's and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.