Monster Blog Tour
I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the MONSTER by Brynn Chapman Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!
About The Book:
Title: MONSTER: A Tale of Murder, Madness and Plastic Surgery (MONSTER Plastic Surgery Mystery Series 1)
Author: Brynn Chapman
Pub. Date: April 14, 2023
Publisher: Twenty Seven Dresses
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Find it: Goodreads, https://books2read.com/MONSTERCHAPMAN
MONSTER. The word evokes images of fairy tales and horror. But once, in 1850 Philadelphia, it was actually the term commonly used in physician’s case notes for the victims of fire. Conflagrations were common in this period—clothing, especially women’s lace, was highly flammable. Once the flesh was destroyed, there was no cure. These unfortunate souls lived out their lives as MONSTERS, secluded away by family. Once burned flesh gives way to contractures, disfigurements to rival even Bram Stoker’s imagination were born. And the hearts of the people inside the shell perished. Lorelei is one such MONSTER. Born to a wealthy family, disfigured by fire, she fake’s her own death, leaving the world she knows behind—because in her mind…freedom, even if it is a workhouse, is preferable than the life of a shut-in, a burden on her family's name. 1850’s Philadelphia is an epi-center of medicine. Rival medical schools search in desperation for bodies—cadavers to teach the art and science of anatomy to their medical students. Corpses become so rare, a new profession evolves. Resurrection Men, or body snatchers, dig up the graves of the newly decreased for high pay. Rory Henry is one of the Resurrection Men. A Scots-Irish Immigrant, he has fought his way off the streets, and into medical school by whatever means necessary. He is not above digging up corpses—he cuts them by day, and searches them out by night. These two lives intersect in an explosion of personality-Rory is designated as Lorelei’s surgeon. Entrusted with performing the new operation called, The Mutter Flap. Once he sees her face, will the unrequited love die, or ignite? People are disappearing. Someone has discovered that murder is far more lucrative than grave robbing. And many of the bodies are from Lorelei’s workhouse. Will she be next?
PRAISE FOR BRYNN CHAPMANS BOOKS:
Dark twists and turns abound in this fast-paced and riveting gothic thriller. I consumed it in one sitting!”--Lea Nolan, USA Today Bestselling Author
"Exquisitely written! Requiem Red is a haunting tale of monsters, music, insanity, and the power of love where one least expects to find it.Brava, Ms. Chapman! This book will remain forever in my heart!" -- Darynda Jones NYTimes/USAToday Bestselling Author The Charley Davidson Series
"A rollicking ride of a story, with a tender heart -- A Circle of Crows is a thrilling adventure where the impossible comes to happen; where past meets present; and where a reader can't help but realize that some bonds can't be broken by time or distance."-- Jodi Picoult, author of The Tenth Circle, Vanishing Acts, and My Sister's Keeper.
"Creative, meticulously researched, and terrific fun!"-- Grace Burrowes NY Times Best Selling Author
"The characters, the setting, the descriptions and the mysteries and relationships all work together seamlessly to create a truly wonderful story that I completely adored." --Best Books Ever Blog
"The settings are intriguing and the way they are described make you feel as if you are immersed in the story. I could feel the gloom and damp. That is rare in so many books! Boneseeker is a book I highly recommend, and I give it 5 stars!"-- Christy's Cozy Corners Blog
‘CLAGARNACH’- CLATTERING, THE SOUND OF RAIN ON A ROOFTOP
Bucks County, Pennsylvania
A pathetic, primal call—like a fox in peril.
The sound seeps into my skull, a vibration so low and deep, my teeth rattle in their sockets.
Searing, traveling, burning pain—like the flash of lightning outside escaped the heavens and now scorches a jagged path across my neck.
I wretch. A revulsive smell. My mind flashes to a deer’s carcass—its week-long, dead body, hanging from the trees outside.
The smell is unrelenting but changing. It flows into my nostrils—sickening sweet, like the smell of last year-s summer hog on the spit.
The moaning continues. Now another voice arrives.
A soprano-screech joining the moaning-alto.
I blink rapidly, searching for my younger sister through the thick haze of black smoke now billowing through our summer kitchen like a pirate-s sail in full swell.
“Lorelai! Oh, please Lorelai Libby!” Antoinette wails, “Lib-by, come help us, please!”
Libby, the cook, lumbers into the kitchen, eyes instantly widening as her mouth snaps open in horror.
She lurches forward, grasping Antoinette’s upper arms to wrench her out of the fire’s licking tongue.
I watch from a high vantage point—when it occurs to me, my head may strike the overhead beams. They seem inches away. I gasp.
I hover above my smoking body. I shake my head, “No. No. No.”
“Back up miss Antoinette, stay far from her.go fetch your daddy now.”
But Antoinette is frozen, shaking…stupefied. “Now, child!”
My hands pat of their own accord; up and down my arms, around my neck, trying in vain to smother the flames.
Oh dear Providence in heaven. The flames.
I am on fire.
As the realization hits, my focus narrows and I see it.
The root of all this pain and liquid-lightning.
Sparks sail up, dancing dreamily in the kitchen air; bright, destructive fairies riding the wind, risen from the log which haphazardly rolled onto the hearth.
Such an ordinary situation.
My eyes tick to my sleeve. A spark to the lace on the cuff, which ignited. I flinch. The sensation of teetering…and I drop, plummeting with a whoooosh—and instantly feel the weight of my limbs—slipping into my skin as I would a day dress.
My scalded skin turns icy and my body quakes; beginning in my torso and culminating in my jaws in a violent chatter.
Libby cries out, choking—the terror in her voice matching the ballof dread in my gut, with the bucket still shaking in her hands, she screams, “Roll Miss Lorelai! Roll!”
I give a hoarse, long inhale and sputter at what I realize is a dowsing.
The moment halts; as if the flames melted and congealed time—gumming up the clock’s hands, now ticking, throbbing in place.
My attention follows suite, reattaching to myself, invisible digits stitching my awareness back inside.
Rough hands grip my shoulders and I am, once again, firmly melded to my skin—feeling the back of my skull crack the hardwoods with a wet, thunk.
Robby, Libby’s son.
His steely grasp forces me to and fro, rolling my body, again and again.
My skin freezes again with another bucketful, and I’m choking… and crying. The white-hot liquid-lightning burning is fading…but my heartbeat surges as I perceive something far worse.
A low, dangerous, dull ache.
Outside the lightning flashes, again and again. With every burst I flinch, and howl. A fear—that the destructive light is alive—and has deemed me its home.
The ancient tree outside is alight with something like St. Elmo’s Fire.
“Tintreach,” I wail, my childish gaelic taking over.
Images flash and fade, as the world droops and slows with every blink.
I see the deer my brother downed last week with his long bow. It’s flesh splayed, its red, striated muscles laid bare to the frigid morning air as the steam, or perhaps its ebbing life-force, wafts from its body—rising to become one with the fog.
Am I dying?
There is no panic, just the question.
Screaming again. No…shrieking. Disrupting my slowing senses.
The windowpanes rattle in fear as lightning cleaves the nearby ancient oak in two. Woody arms crackle and blaze to life as the red, hungry pyre engulfs its leafless, dry limbs.
We are the same, now.
My heart is a flightless bird in my chest. Skipping, starting, stopping—a moment of utter stillness, then a terrible racing to catch up.
My world shrinks, the circle of my sight cinching tighter…smaller.
As if dreaming, I recognize the moaning… am the screaming banshee.
My smoking arms give way, my head striking the hearth.
M feel the undertow, deep, dark, as if suspended below the sea—I barely hear father’s footsteps and a muted, anguished cry—like a wounded animal— as he sees the remains of my face.
Odd Fellows Cemetery
Philadelphia, 1843~Present day
“Are you comin, or are you gonna stand there, both your legs the same length? Charlie scolds me in a stage-whisper, hands splayed on his jutting, thin hipbones, blonde hair whipping across his pinched face.
He mutters something else—probably a curse, but I ignore him. We have larger issues at hand.
A cold sweat breaks as my eyes dart across the cemetery grounds, in time to the hair rising on my neck—something. I heard something.
Angels; cherubs and seraphs, forever frozen in stone, stare down at us, judging our actions through unaltering condemnations.
We slink silently through the grave markers, white-washed and strangely beautiful against the black, swirling sky. A myriad of women, all with overtones of Aphrodite, look wistful as they stand guard over the dead. I raise my gaze and cock my head.
“Ya look like me blue-tic hound,” Charlie scoffs.
High on the hill, I see movement, and my heartbeat triples…when I see the source of my vexation, I break out in a smile. A cat. A black tabby, sits atop a grave marker, tail swishing madly. A gray poof of a tail as another leaps to sit beside it.
“Daft,” I mutter.
Charlie shivers. “I ken those angels are supposed to give comfort, but them there, just makes me nervous.”
He stands and casting down his shovel, stretches his back, which results in a series of pops as his vertebrae realign.
“Why am I carrying more of the bags?” He sighs. “Rory McTavish All of this,” his hand gesticulates wildly to the grave before us, “This be your notion, your plan, you daft ejeet. If you’re having a change of heart…”
“A change of heart is for people with a choice, or an inheritance,” I snap.
Charlie continues to ramble. M stare up at the sky and breathe a sigh of relief.
It’s clear and bright. No storms tonight.
Pinpricks of light dapple the sky—stars reign as far as the eye can see here. Long, gauzy streaks in clusters—as if the Almighty cast them from a bucket to form a celestial carpet on which to trod. My leg, my own personal barometer, prickles, and gooseflesh rises.
I realize the verbal droning has ceased. Charlie’s staring at me, foot tapping, awaiting an answer to a question I did not hear.
I shrug and meet his eyes. “Och, c’mon then. Our appointment be this way.”
Charlie follows, muttering, “Now he answers. Bloody one year my senior, but he kens eevvveryyything…”
When I don’t take the bait he falls silent.
Family plots abound. McAllister, Finch, Jones.
I realize I am jealous.
Of…the display of generations. From birth, they have a place—even their final resting place is assured.
I have no family. No belonging.
We make our way through the tombstones, and I avoid the grass in front of each. Out of respect for the dead’s resting place.
I shake my head. That notion be ludicrous, considering our intention.
To some, our title is Resurrection men. To others, grave robbers.
I grind my teeth, feeling the muscle in my mandible bulge.
Mind recites the mouth musculature.
Lists. An annoying tic of a habit.
“Where is our mark?” Charlie asks, his eyes darting over the nearest mausoleum. “We’ve been walking too long. This place gives me the willies. I do not fancy a visit from the Cailleach.”
My brow wrinkles with incredulity but as I look over my shoulder, his face is earnest.
“So, we run the risk of being fined, or worse, jailed, and you’re worried about a wives’ tale from the shire. A giantess, who, while stepping over Scotland and Ireland, dropped gigantic boulders from her apron, forming the mountains, and the Giant’s Causeway?”
I turn to full-on face him, walking backwards, smiling.
“Charlie. You are a man of science—soon to be a physician. You truly believe the Cailleach has followed us, across the sea, and now standsas sentry of the dead for Odd Fellows Cemetery? In Philadelphia?”
“Yes. Yes I do. You weren’t at the pub, now. Mannus said—"
“Mannus is a drunk of the first order.”
“Tis true, but dunna change the fact he seen the Cailleach. Right here.” He gesticulates wildly.
I shrug, helpless. I will never talk a man from his fae folk. “My source at the workhouse assured me two were buried today. So just keep your eyes peeled for fresh dirt.”
Anatomy dissection at the local universities is largely performed in winter, incidentally when Cailleach is said to reign, she being the queen of Winter—I grind my teeth. Ridiculous.
Dissections are largely performed in colder seasons, to slow the corpse’s putrefaction.
I hum and sing, “When crackling leaves give way to sputtering fits of snow, aressurrecting we shall go...”
“Rory,” Charlie-s face has gone the color of curdled milk. “Have some respect, man. Are you completely daft?”
The smile dies on my lips. “I do respect them, Charlie. M am just whistling in the dark, ya ken? And if there were any other way, I would do it. But their ain’t, so this is what we are.”
I shy away from the term—but then force my mind to stare it in the face.
You, Rory cTavish, are a resurrection man. like it or no.
“Or no,” I murmur.
“Nuthin. I think I see it, Charlie.’
We change directions, heading up over a knoll, thankfully putting distance between us and the chapel and rectory. In the days of our early exploits, the day after a dig, my neck would scream in protest from my endless checking of the rectory window—for over-zealous preachers, still protecting their dearly departed flock.
My boot tip strikes an ancient, deeply inlaid headstone, hidden by moss and overgrowth and my heart skips a beat.
We are the wolves, the preacher the shepherd; but instead of the living’s fears of losing everlasting life through vice, we are here to steal what remains.
I swallow. “Here, Charlie.’
I halt, staring down at the loose dirt, where the paupers newly interred remains await. No headstone.
Those who are laid in the pauper’s section from the workhouse cannot afford markers.
And those are the lucky ones. Many a poor man, woman and child, may walk into the workhouse—may leave by the dead of night, in the Resurrection Man’s possession. Or in a mass grave, betwixt layers and layers of humanity.
A body, turned in for dissection, is worth an entire month’s pay.
“Forgotten in life, forgotten in death.” Charlie’s face is startled, as if the words weren’t his own. His surprise changes to a scowl as he bends to yank out his shovel.
“I woan be havin it,” I warn, forcibly jamming in the spade. “Do not be waxing poetic.” I cast the dirt aside. “You ken why we’s here. And neither of us wans to be. C’mon now, boi.”
“Focus on the ends, not the means,” we murmur in unison.
Split, shove, hoist. “We’re here so we can preserve life…and we have to learn through the departed to do that.”
I give him a significant nod. “Good man.”
My shovel pierces the dirt again, and I use my foot to shove it deeper.
We are anatomy students, en route to the illustrious designation of doctor.
And…we steal the bodies and sell them to the highest bidder.
Medicine has become a battlefield, a waging war—between Jefferson and Penn Universities, as each vie for bodies for their dissection theaters.
Many immigrants from Ireland or Scotland find their funds depleted half way through their education. Many young men do not risk the journey and choose to stay—to attend at Edinboro instead.
We are doing what we must—to alter the hand we were dealt.
Charlie is digging in earnest, sweat popping at his temples, and I try to match his pace. I would sorely love to lose myself in the effort, focusing solely on the movement of my body.
I scan the graveyard again, meeting the gaze of cement angels.
I am vigilant, my body poised for flight—the heartbeat in my chest whooshing like a fast-moving stream. We take turns being the watch-man.
Charlie continues our conversation as if a quarter hour has not passed.
“Mannus told me the other night the Cailleach is here because of all the body snatching. They’re callin her, Lady MacBeth. H De stops to wipe the sweat, leaving a comical black streak. He gestures with his free hand. “She’s floatin through the headstones…like, ready to punish Resurrection Men. She even has the staff.”
“Ya ken. When she strikes the ground with the staff, everything goes all frozen-like. And she can control the weather.”
To control the weather. Maybe I should find her. We could use a week without rain.
I scoff but smile. “Poppycock. In my examination of the scriptures, my conclusion is that the dead do not return to haunt the living.” I shrug, and try to smother my smile. “But…could be a demon.”
Charlie halts, mid-dig, his face rigid. He’s from Cork, Ireland, and has been nursed and fed a steady diet of the tales of fairies and fae from the moment his wee head hit the bassinette.
“I’m just talkin balderdash,” I smile. “Tis nothing. There is no Lady MacBeth, Charlie.”
A bell tolls.
Gooseflesh rips down my spine.
I halt, my blood going cold as the ground under my feet. All the hairs on my arms stand to attention like a solider at revelry. I feel the weathervane on my lower leg explode with electricity.
The bell calls again. Clear, tinkling; like the sound of frozen tree branches.
Charlie stands, face on fire. “Alright Dr. High and Mighty—wot be that, then? You know full well the church-s steeple is under repair. No bell,”