In a corner of London known as Lincoln’s Inn Fields, opposite a pretty tree-lined square, lies a museum.
It’s a quiet sort of a place. It’s not well-known, like the Natural History Museum or the V&A. It’s nestled within the Royal College of Surgeons and it’s staffed by eminent consultants who have retired from the rigours of the operating table.
This museum – known as The Hunterian – is a dark sort of a place too. It’s filled with grim treasures: the preserved remains of quintuplets floating in a jar; the teeth of soldiers lost of the battlefields of Waterloo; a syphilitic woman’s prosthetic nose. A centrepiece of its collection is the malformed skeleton of a man known only as ‘Mr Jeffs, aged 39.’
Mr Jeffs suffered from Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP), otherwise known as Stone Man Syndrome. The tragedy of this condition is that sufferers find themselves imprisoned in a second skeleton of bone, and it was this exhibit that inspired the macabre museum of medical grotesqueries in my debut novel Rattle and its sequel, The Collector.
The antagonist of my books – a psychopath known by many names including Ol’ Bloody Bones, The Night Man, The Bone Collector, Brian Howley and Mr Silver – is compelled to continue the traditions of his forefathers. In his father’s house, he houses his own ‘specimens’ – specially chosen victims who each have some kind of bone deformity.
The Bone Collector prepares his specimens in the same careful way a museum curator might do. He employs the same type of beetle once used by the Natural History Museum to clean the flesh from their bones. He is careful to ensure that sinews are left intact so the skeletons still hang together.
In The Collector, six-year-old Jakey Frith – a character who suffers from Stone Man Syndrome – has escaped the clutches of Ol’ Bloody Bones’, but for how long? The killer is desperate to reclaim the ultimate prize. The fate of Clara Foyle, a five-year-old with cleft hands, remains unclear but she is destined to become an exhibit. For Sunday Cranston, a young woman with facial deformities, and teenager Grace Rodriguez, who was born with cervical ribs, it is already too late.
In Rattle, we learn that the Bone Collector’s warped obsession began in his childhood. His father, Marshall, taught his young son how to prepare the corpses, to remove the internal organs and preserve the specimens. In The Collector, we find out why and how he became a killer – the significance of his very first evisceration, an exhibit known only by the initial S.
The family museum meant everything to The Bone Collector. It was his reason for living. When it is destroyed by fire, he holds Detective Sergeant Etta Fitzroy responsible – and vows to exact an bloody – and twisted – revenge, inspired by his dark desires. He is also looking for an heir to continue his life’s work and targets Saul Anguish, a vulnerable teenager who is caught between darkness and light.
The real Hunterian is a fascinating place to visit, although not for the faint-hearted. The filleted bones of a three-month-old foetus and the 7ft 7ins remains of John Byrne, The Irish Giant, are among its assortment of scientific oddities.
In Rattle and The Collector, the psychopath is obsessed with this museum as well as his own, spending hours walking its corridors. For the next three years, The Hunterian is closed to the public while the building undergoes redevelopment. But be careful if you visit one day. You never know who might be lurking in the shadows.
“A crime novel of the very first order.”—David Baldacci
In Fiona Cummins’ new novel of taut psychological suspense, an elusive psychopath meets his match in a detective who’s just as ruthless—a woman who knows all too well that the best mind games are played in the dark . . .
It was only months ago that Detective Sergeant Etta Fitzroy was held captive by serial killer Brian Howley. Incredibly, she escaped. But so did he. What was found in the macabre museum Howley called home was unnerving enough. For Fitzroy, what the Butcher of Bromley didn’t leave behind chills her to the bone: not a single trace of his most recent abductee. All Fitzroy wants to know now is . . . dead or alive, where is the girl? Hiding in plain sight with a new name and a new identity, Howley is making plans for an ingenious new start, and he’s daring Fitzroy to come along. Clue by terrifying clue, she’s following in a killer’s footsteps, but even she can’t imagine where they’ll lead. Because Howley’s endgame has a terrifying twist—one that will not only change his fate, but the fate of everyone Fitzroy is risking her life to protect.
“With a creepy and menacing undertone and one of the scariest antagonists ever, this is sure to give readers nightmares. Cummins excels at raising the level of dread and suspense, and this unpredictable, impossible-to-put-down read is dark, gripping, and eerie. VERDICT- Highly recommended for fans of Karin Slaughter and those who love well-written psychological thrillers.”– Library Journal starred review
Praise for Rattle
“Harrowing and horrifying.”—Val McDermid
“Up there with the best of them . . . an exceptionally creepy psychopathic killer.” —The Times
“Gripping. A total page turner.”—D E Meredith
“Left me breathless with fear.”—Michelle Davies