What a treat! Ofilia, Debbie, and Lauren all read and reviewed:
A Taste for Monsters by Matthew J. Kirby
About: In 1888 seventeen-year-old Evelyn Fallow, herself disfigured by the phosphorus in the match factory where she worked, has been hired as a maid to Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man– but when the Jack the Ripper murders begin she and Merrick find themselves haunted by the ghosts of the slain women, and Evelyn is caught up in the mystery of Jack’s identity.
Murder, ghosts, deformities, oh my! When Evelyn is left disfigured by an accident, she has no one to turn and nowhere to live. However, when an opening as a maid for the Elephant Man presents itself, she quickly takes on the job in order to provide for herself. As the story evolves, Evelyn develops a strong relationship with him, and the two bond over the challenges they face daily considering their abnormal appearances. When murders begin plaguing the city, ghosts of the victims visit the duo and it is up to them to avenge their deaths.
Ofilia’s Thoughts: Let me start by saying I am not usually a fan of historical fiction especially when it has an actual historical figure as a character. Often times in these types of books, it feels like someone is trying to force you to learn something. Thankfully, that is not the case with this book. Yes, Joseph Merrick (AKA the Elephant Man) was an actual person and this book includes factual details about his life. Those facts and details do not impede the progress of the story though. Kirby does an excellent job filling you in, but keeps the narrative going and what a story! Firstly, the setting is a character in and of itself. Nineteenth Century London was dirty, rancid and dangerous especially for the poor. Our protagonist, Evelyn, is not only poor, but she is disfigured thanks to her work in a match factory. (This is also something that was common at the time and horrible!) Then you add the gruesome details of the Jack the Ripper murders, vengeful ghosts and the cast of suspicious characters that surround Merrick all with their own motives and you’ve got a fantastic story.
Debbie’s Thoughts: 17 year old Evelyn Fallow is permanently disfigured. Her jaw eaten away by poisonous phosphorus used to make matches in the match factories of 1888 London. Hoping to hide away from the world and train as a nurse she seeks employment at London Hospital. She is disappointed to learn she is too young for nurse training. Additionally, she is informed, she will never be nurse material as her disfigurement would upset the hospital’s patients. However, she is offered other employment as maid to Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man; a permanent resident of London Hospital. With no money or family Evelyn accepts the position and learns to love and respect the kind and gentle Mr. Merrick.
As the story of Evelyn and Joseph Merrick unfolds the horrific Jack the Ripper murders begin and Mr. Merrick is visited nightly by the ghosts of the murdered women. Unnerved by these visits his health declines and Evelyn realized she must unmask Jack the Ripper in order to save her friend.
Lauren’s Thoughts: Let’s face it, I love a good monster story/murder mystery. While I don’t especially like period-writing (I often get tangled up in the language), I found myself fully immersed in this novel because of it. Kirby has a knack for detail that had me wanting more. Before, I hadn’t known a whole lot about the Elephant Man either, which added another interesting element to the story, so to learn about the tragedy of Joseph Merrick’s life while also getting the juicy details of the murders happening across the city was a treat. I could not put this book down and hated when I had to, you know, get back to work and stop reading. Any fans of historical fiction or thrillers should enjoy this masterpiece. A word of caution, though, there are moments of gruesome details that may make you queasy.