cover image The Corpse Queen

The Corpse Queen

Heather M. Herrman. Putnam, $18.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-984816-70-2

Smartly written with a decidedly dark demeanor, Herrman’s (Consumption, for adults) young adult debut interweaves death and self-determination. In 1850s Philadelphia, nearly 17-year-old orphan Molly Green, who is of Irish descent, is stunned by the death—seemingly by suicide—and mutilation of her apparently pregnant best friend, Kitty. Molly is sent from the orphanage to stay with her newly discovered aunt, who just so happens to be the infamous Corpse Queen, who oversees the buying and selling of bodies and is “one of the few places in town to deal in anomalies.” Once situated in the wealthy woman’s home, Molly learns that the new luxuries come with a price—in addition to entering high society, she must gather and prepare bodies, supplying the renowned Dr. LaValle with the cadavers on which his medical students practice surgery. As her own passion for the medical profession grows, a figure known as the Knifeman kills and dismembers young women across the city, and Molly makes it her mission to put an end to his reign. Balancing gritty details about anatomy and dissection with warm, class-spanning friendships among the cued-white characters, this immersive, Frankenstein-tinged novel considers misogyny, socioeconomic divides, and social norms at a specific moment in modern surgery’s beginnings. Ages 12–up. Agent: Barbara Poelle, Irene Goodman Literary. (Sept.)