Serial killers are often the stuff of a good suspense novel. My book, A MATTER OF
GRAVE CONCERN, includes them, too. But when we think of serial killers, we
often associate them with contemporary stories. Or, if we don’t, we focus
primarily on Jack the Ripper. The dark mystery behind Jack the Ripper’s crimes
keep the memory of his poor victims ever-present.
I’ve always been intrigued by Jack the Ripper, but when I was looking for ideas
for my next historical romantic suspense novel, I ran across a different type of
serial killer that intrigued me just as much—not someone who murdered for lust
or the thrill of it. William Burke and William Hare teamed up to murder for
money. Granted, that isn’t unheard of (then or now), but the circumstances
surrounding their crimes were bizarre, especially to a modern reader. And when I
learned that conditions in the late 17th century and early 18th century were
rife for the same type of thing to happen again, over and over, I knew I’d hit
upon the perfect spine-tingling backdrop for my story.
Burke and Hare were Irishmen living in Edinburgh when they murdered sixteen
people. Oddly enough, they didn’t have the same problem most serial killers
face—which is how to get rid of the bodies of their victims. They were murdering
people for their bodies, so they could sell them to Dr. Robert Knox, a famous
anatomist. When they were discovered, Burke was hanged, his body later given
over for dissection (poetic justice, eh?), and Hare, in exchange for his
testimony against Burke, was let go (some say that when his identity was
discovered he was attacked and beaten so badly that he was blinded and
eventually died a beggar). Obviously, emotions surrounding Burke and Hare’s
actions ran high.
Burke and Hare weren’t the only ones who saw the potential for money to be made.
Maybe not everyone who sold a body for dissection committed murder. Gangs of
“resurrection men,” as they came to be called (or sack ’em men) roved the
churchyards of London, digging up fresh corpses to sell to medical colleges. But
the incentive was certainly there. And, as you might imagine, the horrified
family and friends of the recently deceased began taking countermeasures. They
buried the dead in metal cages, purchased coffins pronounced to be “safe,” or
sat up in the cemetery to stand watch for as long as three weeks, until the body
was too decomposed to do a body snatcher any good.
Once I found this shocking material, I knew I wanted to incorporate it into my
next book, but that was only part of the challenge. My goal was to make my book
a heart-stopping romance. So...how to combine the two elements?
Enter Abigail Hale, the headstrong daughter of the chief surgeon at Aldersgate
School of Medicine. In order to save the college where she works, and her
father’s career, she must provide the anatomists and their students with
specimens. So she calls upon the services of Jack Hurtsill, a nefarious
character known for running a gang of resurrection men. She believes she can
manage him and the others. She’s bought cadavers before. But she’s never met a
man the likes of Maximillion Wilder. When he shows up with Hurtsill, she quickly
learns that she’s asking for more trouble than she can handle.
Fortunately for her, Max isn’t quite as bad as he seems. He’s not even a true
body snatcher. He’s merely masquerading as one to find his missing half-sister,
who was last seen in the company of Jack Hurtsill. But he can’t let Abby get in
the way. If he has to act to protect her, it would blow his cover. It might even
put his life in peril.
But when things don’t go the way he planned, and Abigail falls in his path
again, he soon realizes that some things are worth any risk….
With Halloween on the horizon, this novel should send a creepy chill down your
spine—but, hopefully, it will also warm your heart to watch two people find the
kind of love we all crave.
About A MATTER OF GRAVE CONCERN
Bestselling author Brenda Novak unearths love in the darkest of places.
When Maximillian Wilder hides his noble identity and joins the notorious body
snatchers known as the London Supply Company, the last thing on his mind is
love. He’s worried about Madeline, his vanished half sister, who was last seen
in the company of Jack Hurtsill, the gang’s conscienceless leader. Raiding
graveyards, stealing corpses, and selling them to medical colleges as dissection
material is dirty work, but Max knows he must gain Jack’s trust. He’s determined
to find out what happened to Madeline—and to bring Jack to justice if she was
murdered for the coin her body could earn.
Beautiful, spirited Abigail Hale, daughter of the surgeon at Aldersgate School
of Medicine, detests the challenging, hard-bargaining Max almost as much as
Jack. But she must procure the necessary specimens if she is to save the college
and her father’s career. She believes she is going to be successful—until Jack
double-crosses her. Then she’s swept into a plot of danger and intrigue, one
where Max must intervene to protect her, no matter the risk to his plan…or his
About Brenda Novak
It was a shocking experience that jump-started Brenda Novak's career as a
bestselling author--she caught her day-care provider drugging her children with
cough syrup to get them to sleep all day. That was when Brenda decided she
needed to quit her job as a loan officer and help make a living from home.
"When I first got the idea to become a novelist, it took me five years to teach
myself the craft and finish my first book," Brenda says. But she sold that book,
and the rest is history. Her novels have made the New York Times,
USA Today and Borders/Waldenbooks bestseller lists and won many awards,
including three Rita nominations, the Book Buyer's Best, the Book Seller's Best
and the National Reader's Choice Award.
Brenda and her husband, Ted, live in Sacramento and are proud parents of five
children--three girls and two boys. When she's not spending time with her family
or writing, Brenda is usually working on her annual fund-raiser for diabetes
research--an online auction held on her website every May. Brenda has raised over $1.6 million to date.
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