The Small Museum – Jody Cooksley | Blog Tour Extract | #TheSmallMuseum #HistoricalFiction @JCooksleyAuthor  @AllisonandBusby @RichardsonHelen

A chilling historical mystery set against the gothic backdrop of Victorian London, The Small Museum won the Caledonia Novel Award in 2023 and is inspired by the extraordinary treasure trove of curiosities that is the Hunterian Museum in London.

London, 1873. Madeleine Brewster’s marriage to Dr Lucius Everley was meant to be the solution to her family’s sullied reputation. After all, Lucius is a well-respected collector of natural curiosities, his ‘Small Museum’ of bones and things in jars is his pride and joy, although kept under lock and key. His sister Grace’s philanthropic work with fallen women is also highly laudable. However, Maddie is confused by and excluded from what happens in what is meant to be her new home.

Maddie’s skill at drawing promises a role for her though when Lucius agrees to let her help him in making a breakthrough in evolutionary science, a discovery of the first ‘fish with feet’. But the more Maddie learns about both Lucius and Grace, the more she suspects that unimaginable horrors lie behind their polished reputations. Framed for a crime that would take her to the gallows and leave the Everleys unencumbered, Maddie’s only hope is her friend Caroline Fairly. But will she be able to put the pieces together before the trial reaches its fatal conclusion?

My thanks to Helen Richardson PR for the tour invite. The Small Museum is published today, congratulations and happy publication day to Jody. It’s a pleasure to host an extract on the first day of the tour. The Small Museum is published by Allison & Busby in ebook, audio and hardback formats (16 May 2024).


Our wedding was cold and silent, unmarked by flowers or hymns. Pity no choir drowned the noise of my sister. Isabel had no right to cry. She’d done nothing to save me and now her weeping echoed round the chapel and tore at my nerves. I gripped Father’s arm, feeling the darned patch in his suit, and watched the congregation through watery eyes. In the left pews sat as many family shreds as Mother could gather at short notice, overdressed in country finery. On Dr Everley’s side was a group of suited men, and a woman in a beautiful emerald dress with mourning bands. She could not help those, but surely everyone knew green clothes brought bad luck? A wide-brimmed hat hid her face from view; a fox stole clawed across her shoulders.

Mother beamed so brightly I felt ashamed. She had no need to pretend we were happy, everyone in the church knew my duty – a respectable marriage to heal our past. Isabel was quick enough to explain. ‘What chance of escape, for either of us, if you refuse?’ So why was she crying? Not for me. Mother ignored her, turning to wave at the aunts like a duchess at a coronation, and Isabel sniveled into her handkerchief, throwing sideways looks at my shoes. Pale blue kid with two rows of buttons and heels that clicked when I walked. They were all that felt beautiful. ‘Shoes for a lady,’ Mother had sighed as the cobblers boxed them up and Isabel sulked for a day. She was welcome to walk in them now.

My veil was the ‘something old’. A gift from Grandmother, delivered in a package of waxed paper stretched thin as her lips. ‘An heirloom meant for three sisters,’ was all she said but I knew she blamed Mother for Rebecca’s disgrace. She blamed her for this too, saying things about Dr Everley that made me anxious. Hinting at darkness. Father’s friendship with Dr Everley was shrouded in stage smoke, yet now I must promise to honour him, and all Mother said was that I should be glad he wasn’t ugly. He was tall, sword-slim, with just a streak of grey hair at his temple.

Through Grandmother’s fine lace I saw high cheekbones, eyes dark as tombs and deep lines around his mouth as though everything displeased him. Would marriage make him happy? He had certainly seemed keen, arranging things so quickly we’d barely had time to talk. I swallowed hard. As Mother said, I was to be wed, and I should make the best of it.

Paintings flanked the altar, crowding the wall. Gilded frames around the lives of saints. Symeon in his cave, Sebastian shot with arrows. The artist seemed especially to relish the sufferance of holy women. Devoted Agatha on fire; Felicity torn to pieces by wild animals; and Perpetua herself, so great a woman she could not be slain unless she herself willed it. When the service ended, Dr Everley took my hand and I recoiled at his icy touch. He didn’t lift the veil to kiss me. All along the aisle, one arm in the crook of his, the other aching from the weight of my bouquet, I imagined Perpetua and willed myself not to be slain.

Praise for The Small Museum

‘Perfect for fans of Jess Kidd and Essie Fox, The Small Museum is a Victorian snapshot of scientific discovery meets natural history and the darkness unleashed at the hands of medical professionals gone awry. A startling, bewitching Gothic that kept me up reading into the wee hours’ TONYA MITCHELL, author of The Arsenic Eater’s Wife

‘I was blown away by Jody Cooksley’s The Small Museum. There’s such a delicious sense of unease running through the narrative, and like Madeleine, I was desperate to uncover the secrets her new husband Dr Lucius Everley and her philanthropic sister-in-law Grace are hiding. The truth was more shocking than I could imagine, and Cooksley skilfully teases out these revelations in this beautifully written gothic mystery’ STACEY THOMAS, author of The Revels

JODY COOKSLEY studied literature at Oxford Brookes University and has a Masters in Victorian Poetry. Her debut novel The Glass House was a fictional account of the life of nineteenth-century photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron. The Small Museum, Jody’s third novel, won the 2023 Caledonia Novel Award.  Jody is originally from Norwich and now lives in Cranleigh, Surrey.
Photo Credit: Lillian Spibey

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