website statistics The Shape of Darkness - PDF Books Online
Hot Best Seller

The Shape of Darkness

Availability: Ready to download

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. 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...


Compare

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. 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...

30 review for The Shape of Darkness

  1. 4 out of 5

    Maureen

    The bleak, dark, and oppressive atmosphere of mid 19th century Bath, a dirty and unsanitary place, lends much to the supernatural storyline, as it winds its ethereal way down the misty paths of mediumship, with a little mesmerism thrown in for good measure. Agnes Darken lives with her elderly mother and orphaned nephew Cedric. She earns a living as a silhouette artist in order to support the three of them - that is until one of her clients is found murdered, shortly after sitting for Agnes. Natur The bleak, dark, and oppressive atmosphere of mid 19th century Bath, a dirty and unsanitary place, lends much to the supernatural storyline, as it winds its ethereal way down the misty paths of mediumship, with a little mesmerism thrown in for good measure. Agnes Darken lives with her elderly mother and orphaned nephew Cedric. She earns a living as a silhouette artist in order to support the three of them - that is until one of her clients is found murdered, shortly after sitting for Agnes. Naturally Agnes is upset on hearing the news, but then it happens again with her next client - and the next! She believes that someone is out to destroy her business, and in her desperation to discover who would do that, she consults Pearl, a spirit medium who lives with her domineering sister Myrtle, (a mesmerist), and her ailing father. Pearl is only 11 years old but she has a very good reputation for making contact with those who have passed over to the spirit world. Agnes believes that the killer will be revealed if Pearl can contact his victims. You know the old saying, be careful what you wish for? Well the seances may just unleash something that neither of them want to confront! This is Victorian gothic as it should be - dark creepy houses, silent, apart from the ticking of the old grandfather clock, with some chilling encounters thrown in, some of which trace icy fingers down the spine - in addition, there were some really surprising twists, and I have to say, a very unexpected and shocking conclusion! A great murder mystery, aided by the author’s excellent application of deception, (I never guessed the way it would end!) along with the added intrigue of supernatural events. * Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, (Raven Books) for an ARC in exchange for an honest unbiased review *

  2. 5 out of 5

    Beata

    Ms Purcell has become one of my favourite Victorian ghotic authors, and I was delighted to have been offered the latest of her books to read. Bath, 1854. The times of increased interest in mesmerism, spiritual seanses and the art of making silhuettes that is becoming less and less popular due to new techniques, namely, daguerreotype and photography. Agnes Darken lives with her ailing mother and her nephew trying to make ends meet by making silhuettes. Mysteriously, her sitters become victims of Ms Purcell has become one of my favourite Victorian ghotic authors, and I was delighted to have been offered the latest of her books to read. Bath, 1854. The times of increased interest in mesmerism, spiritual seanses and the art of making silhuettes that is becoming less and less popular due to new techniques, namely, daguerreotype and photography. Agnes Darken lives with her ailing mother and her nephew trying to make ends meet by making silhuettes. Mysteriously, her sitters become victims of a murderer. Miss Darken begins to become both scared and obsessed by the events and decides to turn to a medium, a girl called Pearl, for help. Pearl's story is heart-breaking in its own way ... The plot is most engaging and intriguing, and the climax as unpredicatble as may be expected in a novel by Ms Purcell. I always love the way Ms Purcell gradually unravels her characters. I know there is something hidden and lifting the curtain inch by inch is a most thrilling reading experience. I especially appreciated the motifs from Ms Purcell's three other ghotic books delicately included in The Shape of Darkness. A sheer feast for the fans of the genre! *A big thank-you to Laura Purcell, Bloomsbury Publishing, and NetGalley for arc in exchange for my honest review.*

  3. 4 out of 5

    Paromjit

    Once again Laura Purcell gives us perfect winter reading fare with her atmospheric Victorian era Gothic spine chiller set in the filthy, disease ridden, bleak streets of Bath in the late 19th century. Agnes Darken has been struck by illness that has left her fragile and vulnerable, a woman with responsibilities to provide for her elderly mother and her much loved orphan nephew Cedric. As a silhouette artist, she is struggling in a time where people are turning to and preferring the new fields of Once again Laura Purcell gives us perfect winter reading fare with her atmospheric Victorian era Gothic spine chiller set in the filthy, disease ridden, bleak streets of Bath in the late 19th century. Agnes Darken has been struck by illness that has left her fragile and vulnerable, a woman with responsibilities to provide for her elderly mother and her much loved orphan nephew Cedric. As a silhouette artist, she is struggling in a time where people are turning to and preferring the new fields of photography and daguerreotypes. So when her silhouette clients start being murdered, it is understandable that Agnes is left a worried and frightened woman, why would anyone want to target her business? She looks for answers and the identity of a killer from beyond the grave, more specifically from 11 year old albino spiritualist, Pearl, a girl with her own issues, some of which echo those of Agnes, and who has a dominating half sister in mesmerist, Myrtle West. In a story of the supernatural that includes seances, ghosts, where in an ever increasing menacing, creepy and eerie narrative, horror and danger lurks. Insightful information is provided about the matchstick industry and the terrible and deadly effects it has on its workers. This is dark, sinister and dramatic read of grief and loss, secrets and deception, filled with Purcell's trademark twists and surprises. What makes Purcell a stand out author is the depth she provides with her evocative rich descriptions that make this location and this period of history come to vibrant life. It is a time of societal flux, a novel that captures the extreme inequalities and class distinctions, the Victorian obsession with spiritualism, the position of women, new ideas and technologies. If you are in search of dark gothic novel, then this should fit the bill, it is well crafted and a compulsive murder mystery and so much more. Many thanks to Bloomsbury for an ARC.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ceecee

    Agnes Darken is an artist, a creator of silhouettes which is a dying art with people now preferring daguerreotypes. Pearl Meers, ‘The White Sylph’ is an albino spirit guide and her half sister Myrtle West is a mesmerist. These three women connect in the most surprising of ways in this Victorian Gothic Murder Mystery set in Bath. This is a fantastical read! Laura Purcell’s writing feels so authentically Victorian that it is as if it is a gothic mystery from the era. It has every element required Agnes Darken is an artist, a creator of silhouettes which is a dying art with people now preferring daguerreotypes. Pearl Meers, ‘The White Sylph’ is an albino spirit guide and her half sister Myrtle West is a mesmerist. These three women connect in the most surprising of ways in this Victorian Gothic Murder Mystery set in Bath. This is a fantastical read! Laura Purcell’s writing feels so authentically Victorian that it is as if it is a gothic mystery from the era. It has every element required for the genre. It is ghostly, has some supernatural sections, it’s a bit creepy, spine tingling and chilling. There are some very powerful images which create the prefect atmosphere with added deception and more than a dash or two of malevolence. It is a colourful and creative read so it captivates you in the powerful plot. The characters are really good and you have no idea who to trust but then you think you have it all sorted in your head and then another shock and twist comes along. Brilliant! Overall, this is a compelling and enthralling read of high quality which I recommend to fans of the genre or who just like a really good mystery! With thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing PLC for the arc in return for an honest review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Anna Luce

    / / / Read more reviews on my blog / / / MILD-SPOILERS At first I thought that The Shape of Darkness was going to be a spoof of Gothic novels. The dialogues were corny, the two main characters are exceedingly frail, and the 'murder mystery' storyline struck me as somewhat theatrical (or perhaps I should say more suited to a film than a book). But I was willing to read on, thinking that these exaggerations were intentional and that Laura Purcell was lampooning Victorian ghost stories...but the mor / / / Read more reviews on my blog / / / MILD-SPOILERS At first I thought that The Shape of Darkness was going to be a spoof of Gothic novels. The dialogues were corny, the two main characters are exceedingly frail, and the 'murder mystery' storyline struck me as somewhat theatrical (or perhaps I should say more suited to a film than a book). But I was willing to read on, thinking that these exaggerations were intentional and that Laura Purcell was lampooning Victorian ghost stories...but the more I read the more the narrative seemed to try to impress upon me that it was telling a 'serious' story. Having now finished this novel I can safely say that it was very clichéd and unimaginative, the setting of Bath is barely rendered, the two main characters sound like the same person, and the big 'twist' was extremely predictable (I mean, I can think of two films—one in 1999 and one in 2001—that have a similar reveal). Also, The Shape of Darkness is yet another book that proves my least likely person is the culprit theory. Anyhow, Agnes seems to believe that she is being targeted after the very first death. Which is...okay. The plot must go on I guess. Anyway, the story starts with Agnes a silhouette artist. She has yet to fully recover from an illness that struck her a few years prior the start of the novel. She lives in a nondescript house with her orphaned nephew and her elderly mother. Her past is 'mysterious' and she's clearly suffered more than on heartbreak. Her only friend happens to be a doctor who was married to her now deceased evil sister. Her few customers start turning up dead and Agnes worries that someone is after her. Pearl is a medium who also happens to have an evil sister who forces to host seances. Pearl believes in the ghosts and there are scenes that seem to point to 'otherworldly' presences. Pearl is also, like Agnes, kind of sickly. The two characters in fact sound very much like the same person. They lack interiority and are mostly defined by how 'frail' and vulnerable they are. For quite awhile I thought that they were more or less the same age but I was surprised to discover that Pearl was 11 and Agnes in her 40s (yet they both sound like teenagers). Agnes and Pearl end up 'finding' one another and Agnes convinces Pearl to help her contact her now deceased customers. We have two or three scenes in which Agnes is actually doing her job and we see Pearl doing two seances at the very beginning but after the 40% mark the narrative no longer focuses on these things. The story takes a quite a few leaps in logic, there are a few too many convenient coincidences, the plot is dull, the characters uninspired. Although the story is set in Bath there are only a couple descriptions—a few sentences really—describing the city's architecture. Agnes shows a surprising lack of awareness towards her norms of her time and there were a few inconsistencies. For example, a couple of pages after we are told that Agnes' hands are swollen (possibly due to a combination of arthritis and chilblains) she does a silhouette for a customer. This requires her to use her fingers and I guarantee you that if her hands had truly been as the 'swollen lumps' we were told they were, she would not be able to move them very much, let alone being able to doe painstakingly controlled movements with her fingers. Instead we don’t even get a mention of her hands and fingers during this scene (we could have been told how difficult and painful it was to be using her hands when they were so swollen). The story tries to be somewhat serious or creepy and yes, descriptions of Pearl's father—who's phossy jaw is rotting away—were not pleasant. But the narrative's 'supernatural' undertones and 'murder mystery' storyline were bland and galaxies away from being remotely scary (or even atmospheric). Here are a few examples of why I did not like the author's writing: 'But it cannot be, not after all of these years', 'her heart flutters its wings inside her chest', the idea fills her with a sweet glow, 'in her face are those simmering, witchy eyes', 'her slender trunk' (this to describe a woman's figure), 'frightened whispers of her own conscience'. Towards the end the story becomes so dramatic as to be frankly risible. There were a few scenes that were meant to inspire suspense or whatnot but they way they go down would have suited more a B movie. If you liked it, fair enough, but I for one am glad I did not have to pay for my copy (the 'perks' of being on NetGalley).

  6. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This historical novel is set in Victorian Bath, where Agnes Darken lives with her widowed mother and nephew, Cedric. Agnes is a silhouette artist in a time of change, when most of her customers are more interested in having a photographic portrait taken than having their outline snipped. Before long, we learn that not all is well with Agnes; she suffers frail health from an incident in her past, we discover a tale of tangled romance and financial hardship and her only real help comes from local This historical novel is set in Victorian Bath, where Agnes Darken lives with her widowed mother and nephew, Cedric. Agnes is a silhouette artist in a time of change, when most of her customers are more interested in having a photographic portrait taken than having their outline snipped. Before long, we learn that not all is well with Agnes; she suffers frail health from an incident in her past, we discover a tale of tangled romance and financial hardship and her only real help comes from local doctor Simon, who was married to her sister, Constance. As the book progresses, it becomes apparent that Agnes customers are meeting with untimely ends. She meets up with Myrtle West, a mesmerist, whose half-sister, Pearl, is a spirit guide. Although she does not believe in spiritualism, events make her desperate to discover why she is being linked to murder. She fears her business will fail and, despite Simon’s obvious interest, she is unwilling to accept marriage for the sake of security. I really liked, “The Silent Companions,” a previous novel by Laura Purcell and, although I hadn’t read anything else by her until now, I was looking forward to this and was sad to find I did not enjoy it more than I did. I found the characters somewhat melodramatic and struggled to get to grips with the mystery element of the novel and the later coincidences. Although the setting was creepy; complete with séances and Pearl’s father, suffering silently off stage, I could not engage with, or feel enough sympathy, with the characters to make this work for me. There was too much faintness – legs giving way, spots in front of eyes, physical weakness. I much preferred the fiery Myrtle, for all her faults. The author does manage to pull off a surprise with the ending, but, overall, I found this novel dragged a little. Rated 3.5 overall.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    I read this within 48hrs – far quicker than I usually manage these days, but that’s because it's so compelling. The atmosphere just pours from the pages; a perfect example of the genre (gothic). It was a nice original touch to have such an unusual job for the main character too (silhouette artist). Wonderful! I got this on Netgalley (I've been lucky lately!) I read this within 48hrs – far quicker than I usually manage these days, but that’s because it's so compelling. The atmosphere just pours from the pages; a perfect example of the genre (gothic). It was a nice original touch to have such an unusual job for the main character too (silhouette artist). Wonderful! I got this on Netgalley (I've been lucky lately!)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sheree | Keeping Up With The Penguins

    The Shape Of Darkness is a delightfully lightly-scary ghost story-slash-murder mystery, set in Victorian era Bath. Agnes suspects Pearl might be able to help her find the murderer that seems to be targeting her business crafting silhouettes, but (as she points out on page 212): “Ghosts, it seems, are contrary creatures. Not the oracles she had hoped for but imps, out to tantalise and tease.” My full review of The Shape Of Darkness is up now on Keeping Up With The Penguins. The Shape Of Darkness is a delightfully lightly-scary ghost story-slash-murder mystery, set in Victorian era Bath. Agnes suspects Pearl might be able to help her find the murderer that seems to be targeting her business crafting silhouettes, but (as she points out on page 212): “Ghosts, it seems, are contrary creatures. Not the oracles she had hoped for but imps, out to tantalise and tease.” My full review of The Shape Of Darkness is up now on Keeping Up With The Penguins.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    The Shape of Darkness is another chilling gothic tale from Laura Purcell. I have read her previous books and this one seems to be more darker than her previous. Set in the 1800’s in Bath, Agnes Darken is a Silhouette artist, cutting portraits out of paper. She lives with her mother and her nephew. But doing this has some disadvantages. Currently all the people she has made portraits for have ended up dead. She can’t understand why the killer is targeting her clients. The police do not suspect he The Shape of Darkness is another chilling gothic tale from Laura Purcell. I have read her previous books and this one seems to be more darker than her previous. Set in the 1800’s in Bath, Agnes Darken is a Silhouette artist, cutting portraits out of paper. She lives with her mother and her nephew. But doing this has some disadvantages. Currently all the people she has made portraits for have ended up dead. She can’t understand why the killer is targeting her clients. The police do not suspect her. But she needs to find out why they are doing this. So, she goes and visits a medium to see if she can find answers from beyond the grave. Laura Purcell is a master crafter of writing an atmospheric gothic tale set in Victorian times and The Shape of darkness is a good example of this. Especially when she visits Pearl the medium and has a seances. This is a chilling and creepy tale, with lots of secrets that will keep you gripped throughout.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Thebooktrail

    POSTCARD REVIEW Book out in 2021 SET IN BATH Oh if you love a gothic novel that contains mesmerism, ghosts, seances, and mystery built upon mystery then this is for you! Spooky and ethereal. I was totally immersed in the scene building, the glorious dark rooms, flickering candles and moving shadows. I felt as if I should have been wearing crinoline whilst reading it, with those cotton gloves on that the women used to wear. I had to go out once when reading it and was disappointed a hansom cab wa POSTCARD REVIEW Book out in 2021 SET IN BATH Oh if you love a gothic novel that contains mesmerism, ghosts, seances, and mystery built upon mystery then this is for you! Spooky and ethereal. I was totally immersed in the scene building, the glorious dark rooms, flickering candles and moving shadows. I felt as if I should have been wearing crinoline whilst reading it, with those cotton gloves on that the women used to wear. I had to go out once when reading it and was disappointed a hansom cab wasn't there for me. Oh and that ending! If I had been wearing those cotton gloves, I would have taken them off to ensure that everyone heard my applause for this author.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    Wonderful! I really do love stories centring around Victorian spiritualism plus this author is very talented. I found the story completely engrossing and the ending left me in awe. Many thanks to Netgalley for an arc of this book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Robin Stevens

    Viciously spooky and, as always, with a horrible twist in the tale, this is one of my favourite Laura Purcell books yet, a brilliant cross between a murder mystery and a ghost story. (16+) *Please note: this review is meant as a recommendation only. Please do not use it in any marketing material, online or in print, without asking permission from me first. Thank you!*

  13. 5 out of 5

    Roma

    Another fantastic Victorian Gothic by Laura Purcell! The Setting: Dreary, atmospheric Bath, England. Mid-Nineteenth century. The Protagonists: Middle-aged silhouette artist, Agnes Darken. Caretaker to her elderly mother and young nephew, struggling to make ends meet; And 11-year old albino, Pearl, spirit medium and oppressed child. The Plot: Murders and mysteries and ghosts everywhere! The Opinion: I really liked it. It had similar elements to one of Purcell's previous novels' The Corset in that she Another fantastic Victorian Gothic by Laura Purcell! The Setting: Dreary, atmospheric Bath, England. Mid-Nineteenth century. The Protagonists: Middle-aged silhouette artist, Agnes Darken. Caretaker to her elderly mother and young nephew, struggling to make ends meet; And 11-year old albino, Pearl, spirit medium and oppressed child. The Plot: Murders and mysteries and ghosts everywhere! The Opinion: I really liked it. It had similar elements to one of Purcell's previous novels' The Corset in that she plays around with the idea of the supernatural and mental health and so it's up to the reader's interpretation whether the supernatural elements in the story are real or not. She creates unreliable, flawed yet lovable heroines. Even her side characters are fairly well-rounded most of the time. She writes about poor women in a time when women didn't have much of a voice anyways. Plus, who doesn't love a murder-mystery with a dash of the paranormal? The Critique: There are, however, some elements of the novel that I didn't like as much. I could see some of the twists coming from a mile away, so even though I enjoyed it, I didn't find it very surprising. The biggest disappointment for me was that the author didn't elaborate on Agnes' backstory and relationships as much as I would've hoped, particularly her relationship with her mysterious sister Constance. I would have loved to see more of that relationship played out on page. The Take-Away: If you are looking for a fun, spooky, Victorian murder-mystery, then this is the perfect book for you to curl up with on a cold winter's evening. Just don't read too late into the night, you might have nightmares.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Angela Watt

    It's rare for a book to stop me in my tracks, trap me in a chair, away from all else and where I keep saying 'just one more chapter, just one more chapter.' But 'The Shape of Darkness' by Laura Purcell did just that. And now it is over, I am sad, and wondering what could fill the Agnes shaped gap in my life. Let's get it right up front that I love all the books Laura Purcell has written and so I was thrilled to find myself with an early copy of her latest book, courtesy of the author, publisher a It's rare for a book to stop me in my tracks, trap me in a chair, away from all else and where I keep saying 'just one more chapter, just one more chapter.' But 'The Shape of Darkness' by Laura Purcell did just that. And now it is over, I am sad, and wondering what could fill the Agnes shaped gap in my life. Let's get it right up front that I love all the books Laura Purcell has written and so I was thrilled to find myself with an early copy of her latest book, courtesy of the author, publisher and NetGalley. I'm not sure how many copies of 'The Corset' I have gifted to others and how many people I have recommended her books to. This book will be the same. This story ticks all my boxes. - Victorian setting - Large gothic style houses in Bath - Agnes, the main character who is Silhouettist - Mesmerism, Seances, an albino child medium - Mysterious deaths and ghostly goings-on - A dead sister who won't let go - Dark Shadows - Oh and let's not forget a pug called Morpheus I'm not going to share with you what happens, other than to say if you like books with a supernatural element, evocative settings, intriguing characters and with a plot that keeps you turning the pages right until the very end, with some twists that make you go ooh - then this is the book for you. There was also some gorgeous writing along the way, some of which I took the time to highlight so I could return to reread these sentences at a later time. It's not out until January 2021 but make sure you put aside some Christmas money so you can get your hands on this one on release date or pre-order now. The cover looks a beauty too.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Beth Chats Books

    This is a deliciously wicked gothic tale. Set in the late 1800s in Bath, this story follows Agnes Darken, a silhouette artist who finds herself embroiled in a murder mystery that scandalises the city. Everyone who seems to pose for one of Agnes’s pieces starts to meet their untimely demise. Fearful that the murderer is trying to communicate with her, Agnes finds herself seeking answers from her dead relatives and former clients through the help of a medium, a 11 year old albino girl called Pearl This is a deliciously wicked gothic tale. Set in the late 1800s in Bath, this story follows Agnes Darken, a silhouette artist who finds herself embroiled in a murder mystery that scandalises the city. Everyone who seems to pose for one of Agnes’s pieces starts to meet their untimely demise. Fearful that the murderer is trying to communicate with her, Agnes finds herself seeking answers from her dead relatives and former clients through the help of a medium, a 11 year old albino girl called Pearl. This book packs a punch. A perfect read to be snuggled up with on the long cold nights of winter. It’s atmospheric and ghostly and I love how the author plays around with big themes like loss and haunting’s and seance’s and the exploration of the afterlife in a gripping and propulsive way. It’s creepy. It’s gnarly. It’s wonderful. I can always rely on Laura Purcell to give me dark, twisty compelling reads to help me get through the bleak winter nights. I would highly recommend for people who enjoy reading gothic fiction. Thanks to the author, Bloomsbury UK and Netgalley for a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Another deliciously dark tale from Laura Purcell, arguably her darkest yet. The ending threw up a few too many questions for my liking and Victorian era Bath didn’t come alive as much as I was hoping it would, but there were plenty of twists and turns, Gothic atmosphere and intriguing characters to keep even the most discerning reader entertained. ‘The Silent Companions ’ remains her best work to date, but this was still an absorbing, highly entertaining page-turner.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rachael

    At this point, Laura Purcell is an auto-buy author for me. The particular sort of Gothic Historical Fiction that she writes is just exactly my sort of fiction, and so this was one of the most anticipated releases of 2021 for me, and I have to say, she didn't disappoint. There are a couple of interwoven storylines here that fit together wonderfully; that of our MC Agnes a struggling silhouette artist, and that of spiritual seances and mesmerism. I found both to be fascinating, along with some grue At this point, Laura Purcell is an auto-buy author for me. The particular sort of Gothic Historical Fiction that she writes is just exactly my sort of fiction, and so this was one of the most anticipated releases of 2021 for me, and I have to say, she didn't disappoint. There are a couple of interwoven storylines here that fit together wonderfully; that of our MC Agnes a struggling silhouette artist, and that of spiritual seances and mesmerism. I found both to be fascinating, along with some gruesome happenings in 1854 Bath which kept my attention throughout. If you've enjoyed any of Purcell's previous novels then I think you'll enjoy this one too. It has all the same hallmarks, and I'll be recommending this one to anyone who will listen. 4 enthralling stars

  18. 4 out of 5

    Shelleyrae at Book'd Out

    Set in Bath in 1854, The Shape of Darkness is a atmospheric historical novel from Leah Purcell. Agnes Darken supports her ailing mother and orphaned nephew with her work as a silhouette artist, but with the growing popularity of the daguerreotypes, she’s finding it harder to attract clients. She is shocked when the local Sergeant calls on her to ask questions about a recent sitter who was brutally murdered shortly after their appointment, and worried that notoriety might attach to her business. H Set in Bath in 1854, The Shape of Darkness is a atmospheric historical novel from Leah Purcell. Agnes Darken supports her ailing mother and orphaned nephew with her work as a silhouette artist, but with the growing popularity of the daguerreotypes, she’s finding it harder to attract clients. She is shocked when the local Sergeant calls on her to ask questions about a recent sitter who was brutally murdered shortly after their appointment, and worried that notoriety might attach to her business. Her physician and brother in law, Simon, is quick to assure her that all is fine, but when a second and then third client dies, Agnes fears she may somehow be connected to their deaths. Desperate for answers to both the current circumstances and a past tragedy, Agnes reaches out to a mesmerist Myrtle West and her young half sister, Pearl, known as ‘The White Sylph’ who is said to communicate with the dead. The Shape of Darkness embraces all the elements of a Victorian gothic tale - a physically and emotionally frail heroine, high emotion, a bleak, wintry setting, murder, and the supernatural. Purcell deftly builds suspense and dread as she develops the plot, revealing dark secrets and making good use of misdirect to ensure the final twist is a surprise. Fragile and high strung, Agnes has an nervous energy that plays into the narrative. Her suspicions about the connection between the dead and her silhouettes seems fanciful, but her panic is almost contagious as she becomes more certain she, and her family are in danger from an unknown foe. With hints of a tragic background, involving a doomed romance, and a grievous accident, she is exactly what you’d expect as a gothic heroine, except for perhaps her age. Pearl is a desperately sympathetic character, used terribly by her her half sister, Myrtle. Blamed for her mother’s death during her birth, her father now lays dying gruesomely, a victim of phosphorus poisoning. An albino, eleven year old Pearl is easily envisioned as a medium, but there is an ambiguity to her ability that Purcell exploits, so that you’re never quite sure where the line between this world and the next lies. Though overall I found it a touch melodramatic for my taste, The Shape of Darkness is evocative, haunting and enthralling.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ali Kennedy

    Ok, I am going to put this out there, I adore Laura Purcell's books and waiting for this felt like a child waiting for Santa to arrive. The problem with that is that there is always that risk of being disappointed with a lump of coal rather than a shiny new bike. However, The Shape of Darkness was my shiny new bike. This time Laura Purcell explores the role of the supernatural/spirit mediumship in Bath in the mid-1800s. Purcell clearly does her research as she sets the scene so vividly and uses t Ok, I am going to put this out there, I adore Laura Purcell's books and waiting for this felt like a child waiting for Santa to arrive. The problem with that is that there is always that risk of being disappointed with a lump of coal rather than a shiny new bike. However, The Shape of Darkness was my shiny new bike. This time Laura Purcell explores the role of the supernatural/spirit mediumship in Bath in the mid-1800s. Purcell clearly does her research as she sets the scene so vividly and uses terminology relevant to the era (I had to look up a few words and then I fell down a 'google hole'!). Agnes, the silhouette artist is so weak and seems like a lonely woman after having been left to spinster-hood, and the death of her, somewhat horrid sounding, sister. However, she has her mother, sister's son Cedric, and local doctor/friend Simon to keep her company. Pearl is an 11 year old spirit medium who is able to channel the voices of the dead. She is ably promoted in this profession by her, also horrid, sister Myrtle. Pearl and Myrtle live with a father suffering 'phossy jaw' due to his time exposed to phosphorous in the local match factory. Neither Agnes nor Pearl have easy lives, struggling to bring in money to maintain their households. I felt really saddened by their plight, their desperation, and this is testament to the quality of the writing. After a series of deaths/murders, Agnes and Pearl's paths cross and things escalate from there. I cannot say more without giving away the twists, turns and revelations in the plot but I can simply say that they are so wonderfully plotted and I felt fully immersed in this dark, cold and tragic world. What's wonderful about Laura Purcell's books is that you are constantly doubting reality, and they make no firm judgements/conclusions about the reasons behind sinister goings on. The only bad thing about the book is that I have now finished it and need to wait for her next one!

  20. 5 out of 5

    ClaireJ

    This was my most anticipated release of 2021. Laura Purcell is one of my favourite authors as many of you know. All of her books always have a creepy, gothic theme to them and always leave me feeling shaken. This is exactly what happened to me while reading this. It SHOOK me. Firstly, due to it being pretty twisted as some of the descriptive writing is pretty vivid as Laura doesn’t hold back on the real life horrors that happened around that period of history. Also I was just left with the bigge This was my most anticipated release of 2021. Laura Purcell is one of my favourite authors as many of you know. All of her books always have a creepy, gothic theme to them and always leave me feeling shaken. This is exactly what happened to me while reading this. It SHOOK me. Firstly, due to it being pretty twisted as some of the descriptive writing is pretty vivid as Laura doesn’t hold back on the real life horrors that happened around that period of history. Also I was just left with the biggest book hangover ever. I inhaled it in two days and it honestly felt like it was a book written just for me. I love historical fiction books based around the supernatural and especially set in Victorian times. When you throw in seances and murder I am a completely in my element. Then to top it all, it is set in Bath which is one of my favourite places ever!I just felt completely spoiled rotten reading it. And the ending...oh my god...I am still flabbergasted. I had so many theories about what was going to happen but I never saw the ending coming. I am in awe of how Laura managed to fool me throughout the whole story! I kept trying to work out if there really was supernatural things happening or was it the human mind playing tricks. I dare say this will be my book of the year as it is going to take a lot of beating for anything to compare to this masterpiece of a novel. Laura you are a genius!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Justine

    Fucking hell. Review to come 👻

  22. 5 out of 5

    lauren

    Brilliant! Laura Purcell is too good. And those last 100 pages, so!! many!! plot!! twists!! just too good. Great look at guilt, insanity, class and trauma.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Aimee Walker Editorial

    Laura Purcell is one of my must-read authors so I was delighted to receive this ARC in exchange for an honest review. I wasn't disappointed; this had me gripped throughout. Victorian gothic at its best, creepy, full of atmosphere and intrigue. Purcell clearly does her research and comes up with a really unusual story every time, all based on actual historical context – this time, the fashion of mesmerism, the emergence of photography and the horrific consequences of working in match factories. I Laura Purcell is one of my must-read authors so I was delighted to receive this ARC in exchange for an honest review. I wasn't disappointed; this had me gripped throughout. Victorian gothic at its best, creepy, full of atmosphere and intrigue. Purcell clearly does her research and comes up with a really unusual story every time, all based on actual historical context – this time, the fashion of mesmerism, the emergence of photography and the horrific consequences of working in match factories. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Sell

    This is a haunting story that will remain with me for some time. The sign of a great book, for me, is a plot that makes you think and sticks with you. The Shape of Darkness definitely does these things. The characters are richly described, from the complex Agnes to the mysterious and fragile Pearl. Not a single character is there without reason. The interweaving of their lives is the most enjoyable part of this novel. I loved the depictions of the era, houses, and streets. Laura Purcell has a tale This is a haunting story that will remain with me for some time. The sign of a great book, for me, is a plot that makes you think and sticks with you. The Shape of Darkness definitely does these things. The characters are richly described, from the complex Agnes to the mysterious and fragile Pearl. Not a single character is there without reason. The interweaving of their lives is the most enjoyable part of this novel. I loved the depictions of the era, houses, and streets. Laura Purcell has a talent for description, casting a highly visual scene in every chapter. I also learned more about society and particular afflictions. The meshing of a silhouette artist, mesmerist, medium, ghostly happenings, and tumultuous relationships is inspired. As an author, I'm often ahead in spotting what links characters. It can be disappointing. I didn't detect this at all within this novel. The surprises are brilliant! This is the first Laura Purcell novel I've read. It certainly won't be the last.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    Laura Purcell is rapidly growing to be one of my go to authors for quirky, twisty Gothic historical fiction and The Shape of Darkness does not disappoint, it is up there with her other books, including the much praised The Silent Companions and my own firm favourite The Corset. The main protagonist is Agnes, a middle aged spinster, struggling to make a living as a silhouette artist, living with her is her querulous Mother and her beloved nephew Cedric. Recovering from illness, when two of her rec Laura Purcell is rapidly growing to be one of my go to authors for quirky, twisty Gothic historical fiction and The Shape of Darkness does not disappoint, it is up there with her other books, including the much praised The Silent Companions and my own firm favourite The Corset. The main protagonist is Agnes, a middle aged spinster, struggling to make a living as a silhouette artist, living with her is her querulous Mother and her beloved nephew Cedric. Recovering from illness, when two of her recent clients meet sudden violent deaths she fears she is being targetted. Her business in tatters and her mind still grieving for her late domineering sister, she becomes involved with seances and trying to contact the dead through a child medium Pearl and 11 year old albino, who has her own tragic problems. The whole book sucked me in like quicksand and the clever storyline, fabulous characters and sheer eeriness kept me spellbound throughout. A wonderful gothic tale.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tracey Allen at Carpe Librum

    In my years spent enjoying books, tv shows and movies set in the Victorian era (1837-1901) I can't believe I've never come across the art of shadow portraits and silhouette artists before. Popular from the mid 1700s, profiles of a person were painted or cut by hand from black cardboard in order to retain their likeness and often worn in lockets or mounted as gifts. They were a cheaper alternative to painted miniature portraits but began to fall out of fashion with the introduction of photography In my years spent enjoying books, tv shows and movies set in the Victorian era (1837-1901) I can't believe I've never come across the art of shadow portraits and silhouette artists before. Popular from the mid 1700s, profiles of a person were painted or cut by hand from black cardboard in order to retain their likeness and often worn in lockets or mounted as gifts. They were a cheaper alternative to painted miniature portraits but began to fall out of fashion with the introduction of photography. The fact that Laura Purcell was the author to introduce me to a silhouette artist was more than I could hope for. Her novel The Corset was one of my favourite books in 2018, so naturally I had high hopes for The Shape of Darkness. Agnes Darken is a silhouette artist living in Victorian Bath struggling to make ends meet. Left to provide for her mother and orphaned nephew, she works hard to make enough money from her trade of cutting shades to support her family. When a sitter of hers dies, soon followed by another, Agnes worries she has somehow unwittingly caused their deaths. Pearl is an eleven year old albino girl and spirit medium, and along with her half-sister Miss West, they hold seances to commune with spirits. Their sickly father is dying from Phossy jaw (phosphorus necrosis of the jaw) as a result of working in a match factory and the girls are left to run the household as best they can. In an attempt to get to the bottom of the murders, Agnes consults Pearl but together they are frightened by what they discover. The Shape of Darkness is a gothic tale full of references that let me know immediately I was in Victorian England. Seances, ear trumpets, reticules and plenty of mourning etiquette was on display within the pages, making this a real pleasure to read. Here's an example from early on in the novel. "Agnes finds the Boyles' residence almost at once. There is the telltale straw laid out before it to deaden the sound of wheels and the windows are shuttered fast. She adjusts her grip on the package. Perhaps this was not a wise notion, after all. Black material swaddles the brass knocker. It makes a muted, pathetic sound as she lets it fall. Some moments later, the door opens like a tender wound. Behind it is a squat woman dressed in mourning, but the expression upon her face is one of harassment, not grief." Page 32-33 And another from later on in the novel: "The glass hearse displays a coffin suffocating in lilies. It travels feet first so that its occupant cannot look back and beckon others to follow. Yet they do follow: mourners trail wearily behind on foot and the family creep along in their own elaborate carriage. They have not pulled the curtains for privacy. Each stricken and contorted countenance is on view. Agnes knows she should lower her eyes in consideration of the family's pain, but she does not; no one does. Everyone peers into the carriage, eager to see the mark death has left on those it passed so closely by." Page 248 Laura Purcell has a gift for setting the scene in her novels and she does it so well. Author of The Silent Companions, The Corset and Bone China, I continue to enjoy the manner in which she conjures the hustle and bustle of her chosen setting. Here's another example if you haven't yet had the pleasure of her books. "Everyone hurries: to the dyers, to the locksmith, to the grocers, to the chophouses that issue a malodour of hot beef fat. She cannot keep pace. And none of the men emerging from their work at the brewery possess enough gallantry to grant a lady a wide berth on the pavement." Page 96 This gothic delight of a novel is presented with a gorgeous cover design showing a character's silhouette on a visually stunning background of Victorian era scissors spotted with blood. A silhouette adorns the back of the book too and I believe this to be Pearl, with either Agnes or her sister on the front cover. If you've read the book, who do you think graces the cover? Miss Darken must have one of the best character names of the year and she experiences her fair share of problems in the novel. Grieving the loss of her sister in a mysterious accident and recently recovering from ill health, her physician and brother-in-law Simon attempts to thwart her efforts to solve the case. Is she as emotionally frail as he suggests or is there more to it? All is revealed in a surprising conclusion although I'm still chasing the absolute perfect ending that was The Corset and this fell a whisker short. Highly recommended for fans of Victorian era historical fiction and all things gothic. * Copy courtesy of Bloomsbury *

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lynn Williams

    4.5 of 5 stars https://lynns-books.com/2021/01/28/th... My Five Word TL:DR Review : Laura Purcell Does It Again The 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 R 4.5 of 5 stars https://lynns-books.com/2021/01/28/th... My Five Word TL:DR Review : Laura Purcell Does It Again The 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

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lynsey Walker

    Some books just tick all the aesthetic boxes, and when those boxes are - the Victorian era, Bath, ghosts and mediums you know you are in for a treat. Ms Purcell is a master of the slightly gothic, harassed women going mad novel. And this book is no exception. In my humble opinion this is the weakest of her novels, but her weakest is still miles better than what many modern ‘Gothic’ writers will ever produce (please see previous review of The Betrayals). This one just took a while to warm up is al Some books just tick all the aesthetic boxes, and when those boxes are - the Victorian era, Bath, ghosts and mediums you know you are in for a treat. Ms Purcell is a master of the slightly gothic, harassed women going mad novel. And this book is no exception. In my humble opinion this is the weakest of her novels, but her weakest is still miles better than what many modern ‘Gothic’ writers will ever produce (please see previous review of The Betrayals). This one just took a while to warm up is all, and the main character got on my nerves, but the ending! Wow the ending alone dragged this from a 3 star up to a 4 star. When the twist came, I was reading the previous pages, grinning to myself thinking oh shut up, that is a good one! Ms Purcells writing is beautiful and just sweeps you along as any good story writer should. She captures the time and place beautifully, spinning a subtle web before dropping you on your face with the ending. All around marvellous, and I cannot wait for the next novel. It speaks volumes that I will just read anything Ms Purcell writes now without even knowing what it is about, as no doubt it will be gothic, slightly supernatural and at least one person will go mad. Lovely.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    After reading The Silent Companions, I knew that Laura Purcell was a rare talent; however, for me, The Shape of Darkness cements Purcell’s position as one of the greatest authors of all time. This novel is nothing short of a Gothic masterpiece. Crackling with tension and eerily beautiful, this sublime novel is, quite simply, storytelling at its best.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    Agnes is a silhouette artist trying to support her family after the death of her father. When several of her sitters turn up dead, she is brought into the realm of a child spiritualist medium. This was a cracking read with Purcell's usual hint at something 'other'. Brilliant twist at the end. Agnes is a silhouette artist trying to support her family after the death of her father. When several of her sitters turn up dead, she is brought into the realm of a child spiritualist medium. This was a cracking read with Purcell's usual hint at something 'other'. Brilliant twist at the end.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.