The Savage Instinct by Marjorie DeLuca was first published in 2015 but has been redone and will rerelease May 18th, 2021! Thank you NetGalley, Marjorie DeLuca, and Inkshares for the opportunity to read this book!
TRIGGER WARNINGS: Rape, Murder, Child-Murder, Child Loss, Pregnancy loss, torture
It is in 1873, England. Clara Blackstone has just been released from an asylum. She was committed after the loss of her baby and the trauma that immediately occurred after the birth. She endured all kinds of torture in the asylum but now she is free and heading home with her husband. On her way home, they come across the arrest of Mary Ann Cotton, a woman who has been accused of poisoning at least 21 people, including children. Clara begins to volunteer at the local prison and meets the serial killer in person. Their conversations make Clara think about her husband’s actions towards her–the drugging, the abuse. Maybe she isn’t really mad? And maybe Cotton isn’t really guilty?
First of all, this book is DARK. Expect to be furious at least 95% of the time while reading this book. The other 5% is just heartbreaking. Honestly, if a man treated me the way Clara’s husband treated her, poisoning would be the least of his worries. The way men have treated women throughout history and even now is absolutely abhorrent. Now, Mary Ann Cotton is really England’s first serial killer. The author casts doubt on her guilt. She had a defense lawyer but no defense witnesses were called. She maintained her innocence until the end. It is possible that she was just the victim of poverty and poor medical facilities of the Victorian Age or she was a prolific serial killer that mainly used arsenic.
The pace of the novel is a little rough in the transitions, and this isn’t the type of novel that is enjoyable. It is terrifying and graphic. However, I did read this book within a few hours. It is captivating and difficult to put down. I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars!