Another entry in the true horror category, The Monstrumologist starts with the gruesome discovery by a grave robber of a partially-eaten corpse around which is wrapped another corpse of a human-like creature.
The grave robber, Erasmus Gray takes the young female—whose face is half-eaten and whose throat is slashed—to Dr. Warthrop, the montrumologist. That’s right, the good doctor studies monsters. Warthrop identifies the headless creature that was consuming the corpse as an Anthropophagus, one of the headless creatures from Africa so often mentioned in myth and literature. Though the doctor believes only a few could be in New England—so very far from their place of origin—he does find an Anthropophagi fetus implanted in the girl’s corpse and knows that there is at least a breeding pair.
Anthropophagi only feed about once a month, and only on corpses when no living human is available. Armed with this knowledge, the doctor will return to the grave with Erasmus and with his twelve-year-old assistant, Will Henry, to explore the mystery. The group is in for true terror when tens of Anthropophagi come up out of the grave and pursue them. This is only the first of many times when the doctor’s reliance on his scientific knowledge will fail him and cause tragedy. It also begins the question that is addressed throughout the book. “Is there such a thing as ‘morality of the moment’?” How do we decide, in any given circumstance, who lives, who dies, who has more value than others and who is thrown to the wolves (or in this case, the Anthropophagi)?
Will Henry tells this monster tale through a journal that recounts these experiences, which he claims took place in the 1880s. (That this same Will Henry dies in the twenty-first century makes those who find the journal believe that it is fiction.)
Will Henry has come to be the monstumologist’s assistant when his parents were killed in a fire, for which Will blames Dr. Warthrop. Why he blames the doctor is one of the many mysteries explained in the story. Others are how the Anthropophagi came to be in New England and how it is possible that Will Henry could have had so long a life.
While these mysteries are being resolved, the carnage spreads wide, the spine-tingling suspense continues, and the blood, bones, and chunks of flesh fly. Like it? It’s the first in a trilogy. Keep reading.
High school housekeeping: I think a lot readers will enjoy the fast-paced devastation in this genuine monster tale. Unlike some first books in trilogies, this has a complete story and can be read alone or continued in The Curse of the Wendigo. It’s not for the folks with weak tummies—lots of gore finds its way into most scenes. The language is purposefully old-fashioned, so that the reader feels like s/he is back in the 1880s. There are some comic scenes to break up the relentless slaughter and gross-outs (flies and maggots, anyone?). Since the doctor is an absent-minded professor sort who isn’t known for his people skills, his conversations with Will Henry are quite amusing.