Hi and welcome to my stop on the Random Things Tour for Chop Shop! Many thanks to Anne Cater for the invite and to Flame Tree Press for the gifted paperback! I’m not a fan of feet but still I could not resist this cover 😄 So yes, I’ll admit it, it was the cover that drew me in, but I found the blurb equally promising:
Amber Hawthorne and Jolene Morris, roommates and business partners at the Hawthorne Funeral Home, are drowning in debt. Because both young women have trouble keeping their partying habits in line, they start selling body parts on the black market to keep their business alive – and their new buyers seem friendly and trustworthy enough at first. That is until the dead gangster they’ve recently parted up turns out to have been full of disease. Now Amber and Jolene’s buyers want something else to make up for lost profits, leaving the two undertakers to learn sometimes running your own business can cost you an arm and a leg. Literally.
Meet Frank. Frank used to be an upstanding citizen, a doctor, married with a daughter, life was good. And then things went to shit and now Frank is… well, Frank is lots of things but to be calling him an upstanding citizen at this point would be a stretch. Fresh out of prison, Frank is trying to make a living as a back-alley surgeon. Got an injury, like a bullet wound, that’s a bit dodgy so you don’t want anyone to find out about it, so you can’t go to the hospital? Frank’s your man! Things are not great, but so far Frank has managed to keep his head above water… Until he somehow gets caught in the middle of a gang war and ends up with a corpse on his hands. In case you hadn’t realised: when a gang member is shot in the head by a rival gang member in your home, you can’t just call the police or an ambulance or whatever, you have to rid of it yourself, and sooner rather later, before the deceased’s family come knocking. And that is how Frank meets Amber and Jolene. They took over Amber’s father’s funeral home a few years ago but they’re struggling to keep the business from going under, and so when the opportunity arises to start a little side business, they do. The plan is to harvest organs and whatever the hell else they can (which, from the look of things, is A LOT) from their “clients” and deliver those to be sold on. Frank turning up with a dead body constitutes their first time harvesting, and naturally, not everything goes to plan.
Chop Shop is one of those books that had me looking things up. I mean, can one really sell limbs on the black market?! Body parts like eyes and kidneys, sure, but actual limbs?! So I did some research (if the authorities were to look into my Google search history, I’d have some explaining to do!) and to my surprise you can sell and buy pretty much every body part on the black market. Apparently, limbs can be used for things like bone marrow, ligaments, bones, and they go for heaps of money.
Disclaimer: I am in no way responsible for any business ideas that might have occurred to you just now 😳
You may have guessed it, it is a Flame Tree novel after all, but let’s be very clear: this is not a novel for the tender-hearted. From abortions to scrotums torn apart by bullets, from blood spattering on the walls – and pretty much everywhere else – to slippery, unrecognisable body parts gliding to the floor, I won’t say it’s all particularly detailed, but it’s not glossed over either. If you’re someone who has to look away during Grey’s Anatomy operations or you feel sick to your stomach watching the Saw movies, this one is not for you! However, if you like your books smothered in gruesomeness and the blackest of humour, this is totally one for you! Chop Shop is a mix of crime and horror, the latter not in a dangerous creature / haunted house / speculative fiction kind of way, but just as horrific, or perhaps even more so. Although a fictional story, organ harvesting is very real, and during my research, I even came across an abattoir kind of thing in India, where people are kept like cattle to bleed them out and use their body parts *shudders*. In a weird roundabout way, Chop Shop is also a story about relationships: family and friends who feel like family and the crazy shit you’re willing to do for them.
In summary: I grimaced, I grinned, I had a jolly good blood-spattered time! Recommended!
Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour: