Watermelon Tattoo

Fiction - Thriller - Psychological
300 Pages
Reviewed on 05/09/2023
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Watermelon Tattoo is a work in the psychological thriller, suspense, and action subgenres. It is best suited to mature adult readers owing to explicit content, including language, graphic violence, and reference to sexual situations and drug use. Penned by Tony Burnett, this fast-paced and action-packed story takes us into the world of stardom, murder, secret passions, and the turn of the 21st century. Farm girl Jacquelyn Benderman has bad luck following her wherever she goes, but after fleeing dangerous accusations in high school, her career finally starts to take off in Austin. But then, a series of murders around her point the finger of blame in her direction once again.

Tony Burnett weaves so many fantastic themes and dark delights into this whirlwind of a novel that it’s hard to know what to comment on first, as there’s bound to be something for everyone here. From the well-plotted intricacies of the murder mystery storyline to the passionate romantic side-plots, everything gels together incredibly well and blends into the slick, atmospheric descriptive work that brings the darker side of 90s Texas to life. The character work is also a standout feature, and I was wholly invested in Jacquelyn from the off and loved watching the events of her life shape her and teach her the lessons she needed to face some difficult home truths. Overall, Watermelon Tattoo is a sensational work of thriller fiction that fans of original ideas, skillful plotting, and dedicated character study will surely adore.

Anne-Marie Reynolds

Watermelon Tattoo by Tony Burnett is an intriguing psychological thriller. Jacquelyn Benderman thought she had her life mapped out until an accidental death was blamed on her. With nowhere to turn, she runs to Texas, settling in Austin, where her career as a singer takes off. Until a murderer strikes again, it seems that Jacquelyn is being set up as people around her die, leaving the police no alternative but to point the finger at her. Having fallen for her roommate, a Romanian singer and call girl, Jacquelyn now has to protect her from the danger following her wherever she goes. But will anyone believe she is innocent? When everyone knows you, there’s nowhere left to hide, and with Y2K just around the corner, Jacquelyn has to wonder if it’s all over for her.

Watermelon Tattoo by Tony Burnett is a fast-paced, gripping read that will keep you guessing from start to finish. It has a wonderfully diverse range of characters and a unique storyline that will make you want to keep reading. It’s a story of self-discovery with a fantastic protagonist who will stay in your head long after you’ve finished reading. The characters are well-rounded, real people that you will identify with and relate to. Rather than being full of dialog, Tony Burnett has described some conversations. He has a descriptive style of writing that places you firmly in the scene. With plenty of heart-racing action, this page-turner will keep you reading as you become fully invested in the story. Recommended for older readers, given some of the content, and the title will quickly become apparent to you.

Keith Mbuya

Win the Watermelon Queen Pageant contest. Secure a scholarship to a university of her choice and pursue her dream career. These were Jacquelyn Benderman’s grand plans when she graduated from high school in her small town. Little did she know that fate had different plans for her. First was the untimely demise of her lover, for which the town folks blamed her. Then came her disqualification in the pageant contest. Except for her aging dad, Jacqui felt she had nothing keeping her in her hometown. She fled to Austin, Texas, to start over with her exceptional talent for singing. An unknown foe is hell-bent on killing rising stars and with few people to trust in a wicked city, what will happen to Jacqui? Get yourself Tony Burnett’s Watermelon Tattoo to find out.

Tony Burnett’s Watermelon Tattoo is just what lovers of character-driven mystery novels with a touch of romance and drama should be looking for. With an intriguing plot that features a dynamic group of participants, Burnett unfolds a compelling tale of singers, artists, envious and backstabbing friends, nightclub life, witches, love affairs, spicy romance, secrets, trust, and threats. The colorful depictions bring both rural and urban Texas to life, capturing the mood and setting of the scenes impressively. The well-crafted protagonist’s talents and emotions are boldly portrayed, making it easy to connect with and experience an unusual lifestyle. Adding an edge of suspense, thrill, adventure, drama, and humor to the storyline, Burnett had me hooked on this page-turner.

Jamie Michele

In Tony Burnett's Watermelon Tattoo, Jaqui Benderman is a talented and attractive vocalist with dreams of winning a local competition for a college scholarship. However, her hopes are dashed when she is unfairly accused of a tragic accident involving the ex-boyfriend of the mayor's daughter. Forced to flee the town, Jaqui begins to establish herself as a performer at open mic nights. There she meets a former 1980s musician turned R&B singer who takes her under his wing, as well as a Romanian folk singer who survives as a call girl. Despite struggling with her feelings for her new roommate, Jaqui joins a national tour with a show band. However, as she becomes the target of a stalker and people around her are murdered, Jaqui finds herself in an unsettling situation where she must fight to clear her name and protect both herself and everyone she cares for.

I went into Watermelon Tattoo by Tony Burnett thinking that the name was a clever metaphor, but Jaqui literally gets a tattoo of a watermelon on her butt and that's how most of the book goes. As a writer, Burnett is a straight shooter who chooses not to dabble in nuance, which makes this account of life and death in the lead-up to the most recent turn of the century easy to absorb. The writing is effective in conveying the emotional swings of Jaqui, those who surround her, and an antagonist so antagonistic that he sits in his stalker mobile and says things like, “Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord.” I struggled with authenticity issues regarding Jaqui being a nineties teenager/young adult—not aided by the fact that I was the same age as Jaqui at the same time—and even with a hearty suspension of disbelief, there's disbelief. That said, the book is quite fun and quirky. The music scene is an excellent counterbalance to the stalking and murders, adding that layer of uniqueness that sets a story apart. Recommended.

Alma Boucher

Watermelon Tattoo by Tony Burnett is a psychological thriller. Jacquelyn Benderman was a beautiful and musically talented girl who grew up to be a high school honors student. Jacqui wanted to win the Watermelon Queen contest, but her plans went wrong when the ex-boyfriend of the homecoming queen showed an interest in her. The ex-boyfriend died in an accident, and Jacqui was blamed for his death by the townsfolk. Jacqui was forced to leave and found her way to Austin, Texas, where she distinguished herself and rose to stardom. Jacqui met Katrine, who took Jacqui under her wing and they moved in together. Jacqui did not run far enough from her hometown and was being stalked. Someone was killing people who were close to Jacqui, and as the body count rose, she became a suspect.

Watermelon Tattoo is fast-paced and jam-packed with action. The plot was complicated and unpredictable. I was intrigued from the start. I was engaged in what would happen next and could not turn the pages fast enough. The suspense kept me guessing until the very end, and I could not put it down. With all the twists and turns, I could never predict the outcome. Tony Burnett created fantastic characters. They were well-developed and authentic. Jacqui and Katrine were my favorites, and I enjoyed the dynamic between them. There was a great variety of role players, and it was exciting to get to know them. It was a compelling story, well-written, and exceeded my expectations by far.