Title: THE SAVAGE INSTINCT
Author: MARJORIE DeLUCA
Genre: FICTIONAL, HISTORICAL FICTION, MYSTERIES AND THRILLERS, CANADIAN AUTHOR
Length: 300 PAGES
Received From: NETGALLEY
Release Date: MARCH 16, 2021
Price: $18.99 USD
Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
In the lineage of Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace, The Savage Instinct is the chilling story of one woman’s struggle for her sanity, set against the backdrop of the arrest and trial of Mary Ann Cotton, England’s first female serial killer.
Clara Blackstone has just been released after one year in a private asylum for the insane. Clara has two goals: to reunite with her husband, Henry, and to never—ever—return to the asylum. As she enters Durham, Clara finds her carriage surrounded by a mob gathered to witness the imprisonment of Mary Ann Cotton—England’s first female serial killer—accused of poisoning nearly twenty people, including her husbands and children.
Clara soon finds the oppressive confinement of her marriage no less terrifying than the white-tiled walls of Hoxton. And as she grows increasingly suspicious of Henry’s intentions, her fascination with Cotton grows. Soon, Cotton is not just a notorious figure from the headlines, but an unlikely confidante, mentor—and perhaps accomplice—in Clara’s struggle to protect her money, her freedom and her life.
“I became acquainted with madness at the age of twenty-six. During that same year, I met the accused murderer Mary Ann Cotton and learned that the evil ones amongst us are not confined to the filthy alleyways of the poor. They mingle freely in the polished parlours of the middle classes and the gilded ballrooms of the wealthy.”
If that first paragraph did not grab your attention, well, maybe you are just a bit mad yourself.
Set in England in the year 1873, readers learn that Clara Blackstone has spent the past year in one of the many insane asylums that operated in England during those years.
“My baby was limp. I’d strained to pull myself up from the fog of ether to hear its cry above the doctor’s mumbling. Silence… They told me it was a stillbirth, but I barely heard them beneath the sound of my own screams.”
Clara’s mental illness? Well, today we know it as postpartum depression exacerbated by the fact that her baby was stillborn, but in 1873, she was simply labeled as “insane.”
During her year of torturous treatment in the asylum, her husband moved them from London to the city of Durham. It was on her way from the asylum to their new home that their carriage was caught up in a crowd.
The crowd was trying to lay eyes on a woman being led from the courthouse to her transport to the jail. A chant arose:
“Mary Ann Cotton, Mary Ann Cotton.
The rope will break yer neck.
And yer’ll be dead and buried and rotten.”
Clara and her husband eventually arrive at their new home and Clara vows to herself that she will never do anything that could result in her being returned to the hell of the asylum.
That day should have been the start of a new life for Clara, but as readers learn, there are things about her husband that arouse Clara’s suspicions.
When Clara begins doing charity work at the woman’s prison, she is set on a trajectory she could never have seen coming. Readers will not want to put this book down and will find themselves rooting for Clara and possibly even beginning to view multiple murderess Mary Ann Cotton with a dose of sympathy and maybe even a hint of respect.
Along with this wonderful work of historical fiction is a look at the barbaric treatment of “patients” in asylums during that period in history. The author has clearly done her research and exposes many of the horrific “treatments” women were forced to endure. She also includes the fact that many women were shipped off to insane asylums based solely on the testimony of their husbands. So, if a man wanted to take up with a younger woman, all he had to do was say that his wife was hysterical and off the wife went to a life filled with torture and despair. Unfortunately, it is now well known that this happened far too frequently.
THE SAVAGE INSTINCT is a superb work of historical fiction intertwined with historic facts. Author, Marjorie DeLuca seamlessly weaves her story around the enigmatic figure of the all too real, female serial killer Mary Ann Cotton. I thoroughly enjoyed her take on this historic figure.
Also, the story’s protagonist is 100% believable. Clara Blackstone could easily have been a real person. Her imprisonment in two separate insane asylums proved lifealtering (and not in a positive way.) How her husband treats her once she is released shows the attitudes of the time. Mental illness was seen as a personal failing and not an “illness” at all. Unfortunately, many people still view mental health issues that way today.
At a couple places in the story, I thought I knew exactly what was going to happen next. Both times I discovered (to my delight) that I was wrong. I love it when a plot does not become predictable.
I rate THE SAVAGE INSTINCT as a solid 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and I will be keeping an eye on this author’s future endeavors.
*** Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of #TheSavageInstinct ***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Marjorie DeLuca spent her childhood in the ancient cathedral city of Durham in North-Eastern England.
She attended the University of London, became a teacher, and then immigrated to Canada where she lives with her husband, two children and a crazy dog named Bella. There she also studied writing under her mentor, Pulitzer Prize winning author, Carol Shields.
Though she loves writing sci-fi for teens, she’s also just completed two historical novels due out in the next few months.
To learn more about this author, visit the following links:
ABOUT THE PUBLISHER:
Recently called “the future of publishing” by The Wall Street Journal, Inkshares is a book publisher that uses a crowdfunding model instead of agents and acquisitions editors to decide what to publish.
Their community of readers can pre-order a book project on Inkshares.com, and if the project hits its funding limit, Inkshares brings the book to life by providing editorial services, design, production, national distribution, and marketing.
To learn more about this Publisher visit the following links:
MORE BOOKS BY M.M. DeLUCA: