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  1. While writing the first novel in the Lady Darby series, The Anatomist’s Wife, I already had the story arc in mind that would take Kiera and Gage through to the plot of An Artless Demise (Book 7). Given Kiera’s macabre backstory, and the connection with Burke and Hare—the infamous pair of murderers in Edinburgh who sold their victims to the anatomists for dissection—I knew that she had to be present in London in November 1831 when the so-called London Burkers were discovered. And I knew with the public’s panic and outcry, and the gruesome discoveries that were brought to life, she could not pass through it all unscathed.

 

  1. The London Burkers were arrested on November 5, 1831 on suspicion of murder and then attempting to sell the body of a boy to the anatomists at King’s College in London. They were called “burkers” after William Burke, who had been executed in Edinburgh almost three-years prior for murdering at least fifteen people and selling their bodies to the anatomists along with his partner Hare, who escaped the noose when he turned king’s evidence against Burke. The term “burking” referred to the method they’d used to kill their victims. The same method that the London Burkers were suspected of utilizing. The London Burkers were known resurrectionists, and when the news of their arrest on suspicion of murder got out, panic swept through the city. The populace was terrified that this victim—the Italian Boy, as he came to be called—was not the first prey of these murderous body snatchers and their associates, and would not be the last.

 

  1. While I wanted to utilize the tale of the London Burkers in An Artless Demise, I knew I could only insert Kiera and Gage into the real inquiry on the periphery. So I decided to have them investigate a crime that could run parallel to the historical record of that famous inquest and trial. And what better way to do so then have the fictional murder be suspected of being another burking.

 

  1. Britain in the late 1820s and early 1830s was in great danger of collapsing in on itself, and fear of revolution was rampant. After all, the horrors of the Reign of Terror in France were only forty years in the past. The world was changing at a record pace. The Industrial Revolution steamed forward. There was an urgent need for fundamental changes in almost all aspects of society, and yet the government was slow to implement new laws. Eventually, a number of ground-breaking new legislation would finally be adopted by Parliament, but the road to their passage was not an easy one. Kiera and Gage, and their families and friends, are very much caught up in the tumult of their time.

 

  1. The teeth and hair were often removed from corpses by the resurrectionists before the bodies were sold to an anatomist or medical school. They would then sell these “off-cuts” separately to dentists and wigmakers in order to turn a greater profit.

 

  1. In the heyday of the resurrection trade, there were certain pubs and inns which acted as unofficial guild halls for the body snatchers. Not only could the body snatchers drink in these establishments without being regarded with disgust by the other patrons, but they could also make contact with those individuals who performed services indirectly for the trade—porters and such—and they could provide each other with tips and warnings. In the most brazen of these pubs they would even store bodies under the benches while they went out to make a bargain with one of the medical schools.

 

  1. Before the Metropolitan Police Act was passed in 1829 London did not possess a unified police force. It was monitored by a hodgepodge of various parish constables, patrols, and the Bow Street Runners. The New Police were a step in the right direction, though the manner in which they operated was a far cry from the police forces we know today. However, when the act was first implemented, it was highly controversial, and faced great hostility from the public. Adding to their difficulty, the New Police were not an investigative force. Their job was to prevent crime, not to investigate it after it occurred. That job was still left to the infamous Bow Street Runners.

 

  1. Because the economies of many of the Italian states had been devastated in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, large numbers of Italians immigrated to Great Britain in the early 19th. Many welcomed them, particularly if they possessed one of their home country’s renowned skills in crafting optical devices, musical instruments, puppets, or waxworks. However, there was a dark side to this mass migration. Men called padroni would pay impoverished Italian peasants for the services of their sons, claiming they would teach them a useful skill. But more often than not they were treated as little better than slaves and sent out into the streets to exhibit small animals or sell wax and plaster figures for their masters. They would have been particularly vulnerable to unscrupulous men like the London Burkers.

 

  1. The meat that came from the slaughtered animals driven in to Smithfield at the heart of The City several times a week was divided into three categories: Prime, Seconds, and Cag-mag. Cag-mag was the poorest quality, and sold to the unfortunate to supplement their diets. The etymology of the term is macabrely humorous. “Cag” or “cack” means “excrement,” while “mag” is slang for a farthing (a low denomination of coinage). So cag-mag literally means “cheap crap.”

 

  1. Such was the seriousness of the discovery that a Burke and Hare-style gang of resurrectionist murderers might be at work in London, that the Home Secretary Viscount Melbourne took a direct interest in the case. Though generally considered somewhat apathetic and dithering when it came to matters of urban society, particularly when compared to his predecessor Robert Peel, Melbourne asked the vestry clerk, James Corder, to keep him abreast of any developments in the inquest, no matter the hour. The growing number of parents, guardians, and concerned citizens who stepped forward to report missing children horrified him as much as it did many.