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Cover Reveal: THE CORPSE QUEEN by Heather M. Herrman

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The Corpse Queen is a dark and twisty feminist historical thriller, in which a teenage girl starts a new life as a grave robber but quickly becomes entangled in a murderer’s plans. Hitting shelves September 14th!

Scroll down to see the cover and read an excerpt!

9781984816702

Jacket designer: Kristin Boyle

 

Chapter One

The dead do not always keep their secrets.

Sometimes the living must do it for them.

Tucking the knife into her pocket, Molly Green climbed down into the grave.

The river had slipped inside the dead girl like a rotten kiss, swelling her skin until it split. Her once beautiful raven hair was tangled and clotted with mud, and a rancid smell rose from the body like potted meat left in the sun.

What she was about to do made her think of the horrible stories the nuns told. A queen of corpses in Philadelphia.

“Oh, Kitty,” she whispered.

Struggling to stay calm, she wrapped her arms around her friend and lifted.

From above, the moon’s fading glow turned Molly’s red hair to flames.

Kitty’s corpse peeled up reluctantly from the ground, like dough scraped too soon from a pan. Parts of her seemed to want to stay stuck forever in the frozen February earth, and the harder Molly wrenched the more she felt she would break her.

“Dammit,” Molly whispered. “Let me help you!”

There was a terrible second when she was sure Kitty’s limbs would simply come loose like a fly caught in sticky paper, but then she yanked harder and the body tumbled free.

Molly lay there, gasping, Kitty’s dead body on top of her, the purpled skin like a bruise upon her heart.

Overhead a grease moth circled lazily, then landed, seeking to feed. Molly felt its tiny, delicate feet skitter across her skin.

In that instant, she wanted nothing more than to give up. To scream until the nuns found her, and then, maybe, she could die too. They’d put her in an asylum and she could stay there for the rest of her days, screaming with the other crazy women, pulling out her hair and banging her head on stone walls where at least then she could be free from the constant disappointment of others.

No.

It’s Kitty, she reminded herself. Kitty, whom you love. Kitty who could not make a corner on a bed, who laughed like a bird and sang like a tiger. Kitty. Your Kitty.

The stink was nearly unbearable now, something sweetly familiar in the rot that made her think of Christmas.

She and Kitty had stolen an entire ham from the nuns this Feast Day, and no one had ever been the wiser.

“The trick,” said Kitty, “is to commit your sins in plain sight.”

And that was what they’d done, carrying the tray between them out the side door of the orphanage brave as you please. A passing priest had even offered them the sign of the cross.

They had not been able to stop laughing, the two of them feasting on their spoils hidden high up in an old oak tree like giddy crows. Licking the slick of peppermint and clove glaze from their frozen fingers.

Using her knife, she reached around Kitty and began to cut away what was left of the ruined dress. The blade slipped, its rusty metal dull from too many kitchen washings, slicing jaggedly into her palm. She felt blood welling to the surface but did not stop.

Finally, the dress fell away. Molly ran her fingers up the icy skin, searching.

She had seen it only once—a small, pink piece of flesh, no bigger than a finger.

She and Kitty had been swimming in the river, the sunlight dancing between them. Its rays caught a jeweled drop of water on the wiggling nub just below the small of her back.

But as quickly as it appeared, Kitty had submerged the strange limb back beneath the water. “The priest says it’s my punishment,” she whispered.

Molly should have turned away. Refused to involve herself in the lives of the other orphans as she always had before she met Kitty. Instead, she spoke.

“The priest is a great fat fucking liar.”

The words hung between them like a dare.

Then Kitty laughed, and everything changed.

In that moment, they became more than just two orphans—they became bound. Sisters.

“No one else can ever know,” Kitty’s face grew serious. “Please, Molly. They’ll never let me be just a girl again. I’ll be a sermon or…or…a freak.”

“I swear it,” she’d promised.

From overhead came the sound of approaching voices. The nuns, finally come to clean the body.

 

 

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