Was this just too good a collection of cadavers?

Madeleine Shanks, a budding historian of anatomy, thought her trip to Philadelphia would be straightforward: she would use the archives of the nineteenth-century Burtonian Anatomy Museum there to flesh out her dissertation research on the history of anatomical specimen acquisition and then head back to Bloomington, Indiana, to wrap up her Ph.D. and launch her career as a conventional academic.

But Maddy’s journey takes an unexpected twist right from the start as her housing plans fall through and she reluctantly turns to a group of nuns, who took her in when she was orphaned at the age of fifteen, to help her find a room. The lodging she obtains turns out to be in the home of Philadelphia Police Detective John Wolf, a devout Catholic man Maddy quickly figures out is married – although his wife is nowhere to be seen.

Maddy’s plans go even further off track after she meets Dr. Wilhelm, a world-famous researcher on human growth and a patron of the museum. When he invites Maddy to his lab to see his own anatomical collection, Maddy is startled to find the body of Margaret Lovisa, a recently-dead woman with a form of dwarfism, displayed anachronistically in a jar of fluid. Looking deeper into Dr. Wilhelm’s work, Maddy finds so much that doesn’t seem to make sense – including a troubling pattern of death among his patients with the most scientifically-interesting conditions.

Should she risk her nascent, fragile career to pursue the truth behind Dr. Wilhelm’s collection? Can she chase down this mystery when a predator from her own past suddenly rears his ugly head? And what is she to make of her increasingly unusual relationship with Detective Wolf, the man who nicknames her “The Rabbit”?

(Contains explicit sexual content.)

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Why would a suicidal woman want a grand piano?

The press reported the drowning of Professor Alex Shugar as a case of accidental death. And Shugar was well known among her friends for taking chances, personally and professionally. So, this all seemed—at least to most people—to be just what happens when a risky solo swim goes wrong.

Certainly Maddy Shanks, with her brand new PhD, has no reason to think, when she is asked to take over Shugar’s courses in Minneapolis, that there’s anything suspicious about this literature professor’s death. At least until Maddy finds out the real reason she was hired.

Then, a grand piano—ordered just a few days before Shugar’s death—shows up on Maddy’s doorstep. As Maddy asks around to find out why, Shugar’s closest friends begin to tell her things about Shugar that don’t add up. 

Within just weeks of starting her new life in Minnesota, Maddy finds herself sucked into trying to map out Shugar’s last days. She quickly uncovers evidence of secret lovers, jealous underlings, and an uncompleted manuscript on sexual kinks, clues that point to a life even more dangerous than Shugar’s closest friends ever imagined.

Knowing she should keep her head down—stay out of danger and keep her career as a historian of anatomy on track—Maddy can’t help but make Shugar her primary subject, difficult as she is. Not coincidentally, this “extracurricular research” allows Maddy to distract herself from a court case going on back east, a jury trial that (however it comes out) will shape her life forever.

Difficult subjects multiply. Can Maddy Shanks figure out who was really responsible for Alex Shugar’s drowning? Where will Shugar’s unpublished, intimate insights about sex ultimately lead the daring young post-doc? How many other loves and lives will be threatened, including Maddy’s own?

(Contains explicit sexual content.)

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