The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Laura Purcell Does It Again

ShapeofThe Shape of Darkness is Laura Purcell’s latest novel and is another fine display of her wonderful writing ability.  I started with her Silent Companions novel and was blown away and consequently devour everything she writes.

As the title suggests, this story is dark indeed and is a perfect combination of Victorian superstition and fascination with the macabre.  This is not the Bath of the Regency period with women in empire dresses and bonnets sashaying around the Pump Rooms gossiping about the latest fashions and the militia.  This is a period of industry with the grime, poor sanitary conditions and bleak working conditions associated with the period and Purcell uses this to enhance her story displaying the disparity between the rich and the poor, using the horrors of a period where decent working conditions were non-existent and offsetting this with the change in psyche at a time when invention and change were paramount.

As SoD beings we meet Agnes Darken.  Bath is in the grips of winter and Agnes is struggling in more ways than one.  She isn’t 100% fit having almost died from pneumonia and having suffered family loss is now responsible for the care of her mother and young nephew.  On top of this work is harder to come by.  Times are changing and people want the new and modern.  Photography is the new rage and very few people are interested in having their silhouette taken – which is the profession that Agnes excels at and indeed loves.  Times are tough, the cupboards are bare, the tea caddy empty and the house cold and unwelcoming.  Agnes needs to work but when her customers start dying under strange circumstances her livelihood is really threatened and Agnes finally seeks the help of a spiritualist.

I will confess that when I first started SoD I struggled a little to connect as the beginning is undoubtedly bleak.  But, let me be clear, this uncertainty only lasted a few pages before Purcell had hooked me with the strange coincidences that surrounded each death.

What I really loved about this was the different povs.  We have Agnes, an older woman, unhappy in love, who is struggling to cope.  We then have a young girl called Pearl, only 11 or 12 I think, an albino who apparently is a gifted spiritualist.  Pearl lives with her sister and the two take care of their father who is slowly dying from Phossy Jaw.  Agnes would have been considered a genteel woman, educated and well spoken but fallen upon hard times.  Pearl and her family are working class, also struggling to survive with low wages and harsh conditions and resort to doing whatever it takes to survive.  A strange connection links the two families and slowly but surely they become more involved.

Purcell absolutely excels at the gothic.  She is a word magician when it comes to deliciously dark mysteries and using the Victorian era, which is positively oozing with creepiness.  She manages to conjure a time and a place with perfect ease.  The house, cold and dark, only the ticking of the clock to break the silence.  The time of year, freezing cold, icy fingers, threadbare clothes and sooty fireplaces.  But, more than that it’s the quiet sense of unease that prevails throughout the read.  You’re swept up in the story, so busy putting (or trying to put) together the pieces to make a whole, becoming more excited as you chase the clues, that you don’t realise you’ve missed something until the gloriously twisted end. To be honest, even now I’m in two minds about the ending – and yes, that is a deliberate play on words.

This is an author that continues to impress, she continually comes up with curious phenomenon that leaves me with the desire to learn more once I finish reading and I find myself, again, desperately waiting to see what she comes up with next.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars

Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell – because LAURA PURCELL!!!!!!  That is all.

ShapeofAs 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…

Expected publication : January 2021