In a corner of London known as Lincoln’s Inn Fields, opposite a pretty tree-lined square, lies a museum.
It’s a quiet sort of a place. It’s not well-known, like the Natural History Museum or the V&A. It’s nestled within the Royal College of Surgeons and it’s staffed by eminent consultants who have retired from the rigours of the operating table.
This museum – known as The Hunterian – is a dark sort of a place too. It’s filled with grim treasures: the preserved remains of quintuplets floating in a jar; the teeth of soldiers lost of the battlefields of Waterloo; a syphilitic woman’s prosthetic nose. A centrepiece of its collection is the malformed skeleton of a man known only as ‘Mr Jeffs, aged 39.’
Mr Jeffs suffered from Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP), otherwise known as Stone Man Syndrome. The tragedy of this condition is that sufferers find themselves imprisoned in a second skeleton of bone, and it was this exhibit that inspired the macabre museum of medical grotesqueries in my debut novel Rattle and its sequel, The Collector.
The antagonist of my books – a psychopath known by many names including Ol’ Bloody Bones, The Night Man, The Bone Collector, Brian Howley and Mr Silver – is compelled to continue the traditions of his forefathers. In his father’s house, he houses his own ‘specimens’ – specially chosen victims who each have some kind of bone deformity.
The Bone Collector prepares his specimens in the same careful way a museum curator might do. He employs the same type of beetle once used by the Natural History Museum to clean the flesh from their bones. He is careful to ensure that sinews are left intact so the skeletons still hang together. Continue reading “Inside The Collection by Fiona Cummins”