The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell
Publication date: 21 January 2021
Publisher: Raven Books
Genre: Gothic horror
Page count: 416 pages
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.
Laura Purcell is one of my favourite authors! Her Gothic fiction is the absolute perfect thing to curl up with on a cold wintery night. This is exactly what I did when I read her latest book, The Shape of Darkness, in one sitting.
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…
Set in 1850’s Bath, this book switches between two perspectives — an ageing silhouette artist and a child medium. As Agnes begins to realise that a murderer is targeting her customers after they sit for her, she seeks out Pearl, a young girl with a gift, to figure out who the murderer is before her livelihood is destroyed. The setting for this book is absolute perfection. Bath is such a gorgeous city with its Gothic architecture, but also has it’s own shadowy side. The soot-stained buildings cast long shadows, making it the perfect place for a good Gothic mystery.
Agnes and Pearl are fascinating characters, though nearly complete opposites. Agnes, a woman in her 50s, is trying desperately to hold her remaining loved ones close after tragedy robbed her of her sister. Pearl is struggling to contain her gift as her ability to communicate across the veil grows stronger and stronger. They compliment each other perfectly with their differences and similarities, and I found both of their perspectives incredibly compelling.
The mystery of the killer and why they are seemingly targeting Agnes is great, but what I really loved about this book is the fact that it really digs into everyday tragedy and how it impacts a person, regardless of age. The Shape of Darkness is a totally compulsive read that will delight Purcell’s fans, as well as readers of historical fiction, Gothic fiction, and horror. I highly recommend it!
CW: Medical gore, abuse
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