cover image The Savage Instinct

The Savage Instinct

Marjorie DeLuca. Inkshares, $18.99 trade paper (380p) ISBN 978-1-947848-67-2

The real-life case of British serial killer Mary Ann Cotton, who was hanged in 1873 for murdering her stepson and was suspected of multiple other murders, provides the backdrop for this chilling psychological crime novel from DeLuca (Lilah). When Clara Blackstone gives birth to a stillborn and malformed child, Clara attacks the doctor after he tosses the small corpse into a slop bucket as if it were trash. She also partially blinds a nurse by stabbing her with a scalpel. Clara’s husband, Henry, has her confined to London’s Bethlem Hospital, where she’s force-fed and lives with other violent women. Following her release from a year’s confinement in 1872, Clara, who finds her reunion with Henry awkward, gets unexpected help after a charitable prison visit to Mary Ann, who’s imprisoned for allegedly killing 20 people over a dozen years. Mary Ann, who seems unscathed by whatever misdeeds she committed, becomes a mentor for Clara, who’s trying to figure out Henry’s intentions and an appropriate response to them. DeLuca keeps readers guessing, while cleverly using the Mary Ann Cotton case to advance her plot. Minette Walters fans will be pleased. (Apr.)