The Savage Instinct by Marjorie DeLuca

Book Review

Savage Instinct by Marjorie DeLuca is a historical thriller set in the late-19th century following an outcast woman and a serial killer.

Trigger Warnings: Miscarriage, Mental Health/Asylum Experiments, Sexual Assault


England, 1873. Clara Blackstone has just been released after one year in a private asylum for the insane. Clara has two goals: to reunite with her husband, Henry, and to never—ever—return to the asylum. As she enters Durham, Clara finds her carriage surrounded by a mob gathered to witness the imprisonment of Mary Ann Cotton—England’s first female serial killer—accused of poisoning nearly twenty people, including her husbands and children.

Clara soon finds the oppressive confinement of her marriage no less terrifying than the white-tiled walls of Hoxton. And as she grows increasingly suspicious of Henry’s intentions, her fascination with Cotton grows. Soon, Cotton is not just a notorious figure from the headlines, but an unlikely confidante, mentor—and perhaps accomplice—in Clara’s struggle to protect her money, her freedom and her life.

In the lineage of Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace, The Savage Instinct is the chilling story of one woman’s struggle for her sanity, set against the backdrop of the arrest and trial of Mary Ann Cotton, England’s first female serial killer.

My Thoughts

So, I still have no idea how I feel about this book. 

On one end, I see value in the content and what I think the story was trying to convey between the treatment of women in the late 19th century and fertility. This could be a pretty hard story to wrap your head around due to the mental, physical, and sexual intensities our main character endures. 

But on the other side of the spectrum, the fight she goes against feels like it’s worth the read in the end. 

What I Liked:

  • women’s empowerment
  • the mystery/thriller unveiled towards the end
  • linking her story to a real-life serial killer

What I Didn’t Like:

  • the husband! I almost stopped reading this book because of the things he says and does.
  • the treatment done through the asylum, but unfortunately, this is our history
  • the pacing was a little slow at times
  • wish there was more satisfaction for the main character

Overall, I think I’m landing on a 4 out of 5 star review. I think in the end, it was more of the author’s ability to convey the thoughts and feelings of the time into a feministic, historical, thriller novel, which she obviously does well with. 

I also recommend that you read the author’s note at the end. It really seemed to bring the story together and why what was written was important to the overall plot. 

I’d suggest this one if you are looking for a fictional story following women’s rights, victorian vibes, and, even, a serial killer.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

More Book Info

Published: 13 June 2015

Publisher: Inkshares

Genre: Adult Historical/Mystery Thriller

Pages: 377

How I Read It: NetGalley eARC

*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

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Until next time..

Happy Reading!

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