Name: Heather Askwith
Twitter Handle: @misswbooks
Title: THE BROKEN BABY
Genre: YA Gothic Horror
Word Count: 88,000
My Main Character’s Most Stressful Relationship is:
You might think that Mal’s most stressful relationship would be with Verne, the doctor emotionally blackmailing him into becoming a body snatcher. But worse than that is the relationship he has with his little brother, Clay, who’s always exasperated the pragmatic Mal. When Clay disappears, Mal can’t help but think of him often. In a time where it was possible for people to vanish into thin air, Clay has managed to do just that – and Mal knows that if he isn’t dead, then he’s somewhere, causing trouble, exacting revenge on the man who betrayed their mother.
Malcolm Moody’s sister is born a broken baby. Her twisted limbs and fragile bones become the unravelling of their mother, hauled to the asylum hours after Edie’s birth, leaving Mal and his siblings to fend for themselves. Hungry, poor and with nowhere to go, Mal is desperate to make his apprenticeship at one of Edinburgh’s notorious coffin parlours a success.
Not only is Mal’s new boss the town’s mortician, but he also illegally provides medical professor Verne with cadavers for his students. Before long, the doctor’s curious eyes begin to wander to little Edie; a girl so sickly her murder could easily be dismissed as an accident. In a city where reputation is everything, Mal finds himself forced to bend to Verne’s will. In a desperate bid to save his sister, Mal agrees to find Verne the cadavers he needs – even if that means digging up the bodies of recently buried customers.
Everything changes the night Mal snatches the body of a chimney sweep. Whispers and warnings haunt his thoughts and the cadavers mysteriously blacken and spoil instantly. The dead are not happy being disturbed, and as long as Malcolm works for Verne, their spirits refuse to rest.
Edie’s time is running out, and the only way for Mal to stop the clock is to keep the university in supply of fresh corpses. But the bloodier his hands get, the darker his thoughts become, until there’s no one left to save him from himself.
Mal had never seen a dead body before. Standing outside the front of the funeral parlour, he hesitated just for a moment. He needed this apprenticeship, and dead bodies were the trade.
The shop front of Ignacious Skidd’s coffin parlour was set slightly back from the rest of the street, where it brooded. The menacing black vacant eyes of the shop front glared at Mal as he approached. The worst thing is the windows – you’re meant to be able to see inside, he thought. What’s in there that we’re not allowed to look at?
The lithe and towering Ignacious Skidd was made of the same pale limestone as his building. He stood in the doorway. Mal had always been intimidated by men from the New Town. Something about their dapper clothing and the grotesque curling of their top lips made him feel like a mouse meeting a vicious feline.
Ignacious led him through to the ice-cold room where someone lay beneath a sheet on a slab. Mal’s new boss pulled back the sheet, revealing a waxy face.
“The first thing you need to do,” Ignacious purred, “Is add blush to the cheeks. You want him to look fresh."
Mal swallowed, his tongue thick at the back of his throat. He didn’t want to blush the cheeks of a dead man, but his mother’s words rang in his head. Keep your head down. Follow instructions. Ignacious was testing him, and if he couldn’t manage these simple tasks, Mal wouldn’t be getting the apprenticeship he desperately needed.