Wicked deeds require the cover of darkness…
Laura Purcell’s latest Gothic glory is a wondrous thing, and I can’t wait to talk about it. Firstly, a big thank you to Raven Books of Bloomsbury Publishing for my copy of the book, which came with an amazing kit to make a silhouette, which I did with my son over the Christmas holidays!
As the age of the photograph dawns in Victorian Bath, silhouette artist Agnes is struggling to keep her business afloat. Still recovering from a serious illness herself, making enough money to support her elderly mother and her orphaned nephew Cedric has never been easy, but then one of her clients is murdered shortly after sitting for Agnes, and then another, and another… Why is the killer seemingly targeting her business?
Desperately seeking an answer, Agnes approaches Pearl, a child spirit medium lodging in Bath with her older half-sister and her ailing father, hoping that if Pearl can make contact with those who died, they might reveal who killed them.
But Agnes and Pearl quickly discover that instead they may have opened the door to something that they can never put back…
There has been a big of a resurgence in Gothic literature over the last couple of years, with Purcell at the front of the pack, leading the way with her terrifically spooky and at times simply terrifying novels. The Corset, Bone China and The Silent Companions have each carved out a place in literature, bringing back a level of spooky novel writing and reading that would make du Maurier envious.
With The Shape of Darkness, Purcell continues her skillful assent. The characters of Agnes and Pearl are very different, yet there is a unity in their desperate need to have some comfort from a person in their past that they can do nothing about. The first part of the novel gradually builds to Pearl and Agnes meeting for a consultation and this is the first time we get to witness Pearl’s ability, whereas before that, she passes out and is unable to relay what she is seeing, hearing, and feeling.
The descriptions of ghostly beings are enough to make even a skeptic believe, both within the novel and without. It’s very cleverly written, the historical fiction aspect only enhancing the spooky feel to the whole set up. It is also a poignant tale of the situation unmarried women found themselves faced with just generations ago, struggling to support themselves and any dependents they end up with through various circumstances.
It’s not an easy book in many ways, and is certainly an emotional ride, but it is a brilliant story, and one I would recommend to anyone looking for something spooky, or just a bit different as a read this year.
My thanks again to Raven Books at Bloomsbury Publishing for my copy of the book, and to the author for bringing it into existence.