“These are the secrets I have kept. This is the trust I never betrayed.” These are the opening words set down in a journal by an old man who mysteriously lives to the age of 131 years, as he begins to recount the story of his life as a twelve year old assistant to one Dr. Pellinore Warthrop.
It is 1888 and William James Henry has lost his parents in a house fire. He has been taken in by his father’s employer, a tall gaunt man who rarely allows sleep or meals to get in the way of his obsession. He is a Monstrumologist, a scientist who studies monsters. He has just awakened his young assitant in the first hour of morning with the urgent call to “wake up Will Henry and be quick about it!” The boy rarely gets his full eight hours.
They have a caller at the back door. Erasmus Gray is a grave robber who has made a strange and gruesome discovery while plying his trade. If the rumors are true, the shaken old man reasons, there’s only one man in New Jerusualem Massachusetts who can be trusted with his discovery– that is Dr. Pellinore Warthrop. The old man has found something in a grave he’s robbed. It’s dead. Just as dead as the corpse it was in the act of eating.
The life of Will Henry isn’t an easy one. His is a life of long hours that often creep into days of no sleep, of a stomach low on food and filled instead with the business of fleeing creatures who have just devoured the adult standing by him only a moment before. Afterward there’s the dried blood and skull fragments he sometimes washes from his face, as well as the stench of rotting corpses that burns his eyes and throat throughout his adventures.
And there’s Dr. Pellinore Warthrop himself, “Snap to Will Henry, snap to!” There’s never a moment to rest in the house of a doctor who never sleeps. He is a man that is nearly impossible to work for, a perfectionist who is rarely pleased, an egomaniac and a narcissist given to bouts of bed ridden melancholia. There are times when Will Henry thinks of running away, but something more than a roof over his head keeps him from leaving the House on Harrington Lane.
Rick Yancey has created an unnerving Victorian world of moonless nights and shadowy halls, half lit by fiery torches and gas jets. His characters are deeply wrinkled and rheumy, pompous and parsimonious. They are sometimes discovered near the end of their tortured lives, about to succumb to stomach turning horrors. Yancey has created a partnership between this master and his young assistant that is one of the best since Doyle introduced civilized society to Holmes and Watson.
The Monstrumologist is a thrilling read, both frightening and humorous with characters you can’t forget. You may wish to call in sick to finish this one. I recommend perfecting that cough and rasping voice in anticipation of the event. Believe me, this book is really that good. If you’d like to read a few pages, just click on the book cover below.
The Yaroos! Team has given this book 5 Stars.