The Resurrectionist of Caligo is one of those books that sells itself on a single sentence: a grave robber finds himself on the run after being accused of murdering one of the corpses he’s dug up. Genius—especially once you add in a hint of macabre magic in the form of a princess schooled in blood magic.
It’s a combination that landed Wendy Trimboli and Alicia Zaloga’s co-written novel on our list of 25 debuts we can’t wait to read in 2019—and now that we’ve seen the gorgeous cover (from artist John Coulthart) and read an excerpt the first chapter, we’re even more confident this is going to be as fun as it sounds.
What’s that? You’d like to see the cover and read an excerpt too? Well, then keep scrolling! Below the official summary you’ll find both! The Resurrectionist of Caligo arrives September 10, and you can preorder the book now.
With a murderer on the loose, it’s up to an enlightened bodysnatcher and a rebellious princess to save the city, in this wonderfully inventive Victorian-tinged fantasy noir.
“Man of Science” Roger Weathersby scrapes out a risky living digging up corpses for medical schools. When he’s framed for the murder of one of his cadavers, he’s forced to trust in the superstitions he’s always rejected: his former friend, princess Sibylla, offers to commute Roger’s execution in a blood magic ritual which will bind him to her forever. With little choice, he finds himself indentured to Sibylla and propelled into an investigation. There’s a murderer loose in the city of Caligo, and the duo must navigate science and sorcery, palace intrigue and dank boneyards to catch the butcher before the killings tear their whole country apart.
Dolorous Avenue, where Caligo’s most venerable families were interred, descended trench-like into the ground, a sliver of sky visible through the encroaching flora. The ivy-sheathed family crypts stood in rows like townhouses. Flagstone paths lead to wrought-iron porticoes that shielded crypt doors from the weather. Tiny glowing ghostcandle mushrooms sprouted from chinks between the stones, and the statue of some long-dead queen clawed the air with marble fingers. Decades of rain had streaked sooty tears down her face.
Roger drew the garlic from his pocket. He tore off a clove, peeled it, and popped it in his mouth. Chewing slowly, he knelt before the metal door of the Smith crypt, then tossed another garlic clove at the statue for good measure. A decorative iron curlicue blocked the keyhole, meant to deter amateurs. Roger gave the obstruction a practiced twist and slid it aside.
“May the foul Caligo mists blacken my lungs long afore the were-beasts get me.” The sound of his voice banished fear – a little.
He glanced over his shoulder at the marble queen. Had she moved? Roger stood and approached her, watching her stone fingers as if they might conjure sparks, or fountains of ink, or whatever illusory faerie-rubbish the royals waved about as proof of their superiority.
“Poor jammy tartlet.” Roger passed a hand over her marble cheek. “Having to witness my transgressions. You won’t sell me out, will you, your highness?”
He gave a mock bow and retreated to the crypt door. Lifting a surgeon’s charm from beneath his shirt, he kissed the shard of skull embedded in pewter for luck. He selected a tension wrench and, working by feel, torqued the lock’s internal cylinder, then manipulated the tumbler pins with a diamond pick.
“May Reason drive out the hags and warlocks who sell their unicorn paste on Mouthstreet to the unschooled masses,” he whispered. The internal mechanism clicked. Close. So close. And then…
Pang. Pang. Pang.
Roger froze. Metal struck metal – three times, then silence.
“I refuse,” he whispered as cold sweat dribbled down his forehead, “as a man of science to acknowledge witchcraft, spirits, vampyres, polterghosts, goblins, fae, volcanic subdragons, saint-sprites, mermaids, miracles–”
Pang. Pang. Pang.
The sound came from Roger’s right. Shadows enveloped the portico. Behind him, he could make out the gray, rain-washed cobbles of Dolorous Avenue and the silhouette of the stone queen.
A faint blue light floated in the dark before his eyes. His stomach twisted.
Wary of watchmen, Roger hadn’t bothered with a light. Now, arrest by a flesh-and-blood man seemed almost… welcoming. Roger fumbled in his pocket for a candle. He struck frantically with his flint and iron, struggling to light the damp tinder, then the wick. At last the flame flared up.
With a shaking hand, Roger raised the candle toward the shadows. He nearly fainted at the sight. A child swayed in the far corner, a pale girl-like thing in a puff of white nightdress. Her hands clasped a bouquet of glowing mushrooms – the hovering light. Her white sliver of neck ended in a blob of darkness. No head, no face.
The candle rolled from Roger’s fingers. “By the Lady’s nethers!” He couldn’t rise from his knees, nor unclasp his hands.
Roger pressed his palms to his face. Garlic oil coated his fingertips. He pulled the second bulb from his pocket, lobbed it at where the girl-thing’s head should have been, then grabbed the candle. It hadn’t gone out.
The being crouched and caught the garlic bulb when it bounced off the wall. A face like a half moon appeared above her neck, as if she’d swung back a mop of dark hair. Her mouth made a thin line. No eyes, just black holes.
She tore at the garlic, defying all that superstitious nonsense of its protective qualities. A clove hit his shoulder. His chin. His eye. He heard a shriek. Her? Or himself?
Roger lurched to his feet. His head smacked a curl of wrought-iron lattice. The holes in the being’s face filled his vision. All went dark.
Garlic – strong and fresh – tickled his nose. He felt ill.
“You ain’t dead.” A voice. A girl’s voice, lit with annoyance but otherwise normal. “If your legs work now, then run. Afore I fetch someone bigger.”
Roger lay on his back. He struggled to sit up. A girl crouched over him holding the candle. He wiped crushed garlic from his upper lip, blinking. She was a normal-looking girl with a soaked, otherwise normal-looking face.
“See?” she said. “I washed off the flour an’ the coal. You ain’t being hauled off to hell just yet.”
“That were… you?”
“I like scaring scoundrels, not killing ’em. But breaking locks, grave robbing and such, you near deserve it. Besides, I saw the prison brand on your neck. Get nabbed again, and you’ll hang.”
Roger Weathersby, man of science, faced with this more-or-less logical explanation for his paranormal experience, laughed. It hurt. His head throbbed. Self-consciously he retied his neckcloth to cover the black, crenellated wall tattoo that marked him as an ex-convict. Warm blood plastered his hair to his forehead. “So what,” he said at last. “You the caretaker’s lass or some such?”
The girl thrust the candle flame at Roger’s nose. “A minute ago you was begging for mercy. I won’t let you forget it. Who am I? My mother is a night-walking pixie and Queen of Crumpets. I work in a laundry during the day while she sleeps, and at night she turns into a faerie. She brings me hot cross buns.”
She paused. “What’s that look for? You think I’m mad?”
“You mean your mother is a street-walking doxy and Queen of Strumpets, right? She lets the dead watch you while her room is busy, eh? Got a cozy nest in a hollowed-out crypt somewhere? Smart lady, your mother.” Roger had apprenticed for an undertaker and seen what could befall a nine year-old girl fending for herself on the streets.