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“This is a gift, Helena, not a curse. You can help them,” Minerva said.
“I’m afraid of them,” Helena replied, blunt as a butcher’s knife.
“And they sense that, and they think they can take your place,” Minerva replied, matching Helena’s tone.
Helena is Claire L. Smith’s debut novella about a Victorian-Era mortician with the power to see and speak with the Dead. Helena Morrigan is reminiscent of Vanessa Ives from Penny Dreadful. She owns and runs the funeral home that her grandparents owned prior to their deaths. At the beginning of the book, Helena meets the Tartar family–two brothers and their sister–and rents a house from them.
There is a string of strange murders, where the bodies are hollowed out–their chests emptied of organs. Inspector Jude, a rather unpleasant detective, is eager to pin them on Helena. Meanwhile, Helena is visited by the spirits of those who have been gruesomely killed. Despite the harrowing situation that she finds herself in, she has an agency which is outre for the Victorian setting, but absolutely delightful for contemporary readers.
I highly recommend this book, which contains both the magic and the macabre in perfect amounts. Smith’s prose is engaging and has all of the best hallmarks of the Gothic Horror genre. Helena‘s release date is October 13 from CLASH Books, but is available now via preorder.