Cover Image: The Shape of Darkness

The Shape of Darkness

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

It’s taken me an age to write this review and at first I wasn’t sure why the words wouldn’t come. Eventually I realised that it’s because I have to admit I didn’t enjoy it as much as Laura Purcell’s other books. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great gothic mystery but since The Silent Companions is probably the book I recommend the most and I loved The Corset and Bone China, it just didn’t feel as enthralling to me. 

The setting is stunning, as always, and the author writes as if she was actually there in the streets of Victorian Bath, which in turn made me feel as though I was there too.  I found the characters a little similar to others in her books so I didn’t root for them as much as I thought I would.

I guessed the twist with the protagonist’s past and some of the tricks used in the seances but they were impressive nonetheless. Laura Purcell is still one of my favourite authors and I urge anyone who enjoys gothic historical fiction to read this.
Was this review helpful?
This is my favourite Spooky Purcell novel to date.  I loved that it was set in Bath, beautifully evoked with a genteel protagonist fallen on hard times.  The young medium was sympathetically portrayed but the suffering of those involved in the story was heart-wrenching.  Ms Purcell delivers quite a few sucker-punches, playing mind-games with us right up until the spine-tingling ending.  Superb.
Was this review helpful?
Loved this! I've not really been a fan of this authors books in the past but something about this book spoke to me, and I'm so glad it did! I was on the edge of my seat throughout this whole book, and honestly, it's left me wanting to try Laura Purcell's work again.
Was this review helpful?
Agnes Darken is a middle-aged spinster who lives a life of genteel poverty in Victorian Bath. She earns a meagre living as a silhouettist  which is a dying trade. She lives with her aging mother and orphaned nephew.  There is an air of wariness and decay in the story from the beginning. Agnes believes she sees her long gone fiancee and then people begin to turn up dead,  people Agnes completed silhouettes for.  
Agnes believes she will find answers by contacting the spirits of the dead, enter Pearl Meers aka the White Sylph who works as a medium. Pearl lives with her older sister and dying father. Pearl is an albino and even though she is only 11 years old she is developing quite a reputation as a medium. Pearl's sister Myrtle isn't the kindest of creatures and blames Pearl for their mother's death. Agnes and Pearl develop a mutually beneficial relationship where Pearl will contact the dead and Agnes will get medical help for Pearl's father from her brother-in-law Simon Carfax.
The overarching sinister atmosphere is like another character. The Shape of Darkness is set in autumn and again this adds to the atmosphere of decay. Laura Purcell deftly weaves her story threads and the design starts to become apparent. The helplessness of women without an income or the support of a male relative, the cruelty and exploitation of illness are all depicted concisely without ever bashing you about the head with it. For me Laura Purcell is a queen of Gothic fiction and I recommend The Shape of Darkness to readers.
Was this review helpful?
I love Laura Purcell's take on gothic/historical fiction and after a slight dip in my interest re Bone China, I found this on a par with my faves The Corset and The Silent Companions.

Purcell crafts an extremely creepy and melancholy atmosphere of lonely women, rainy streets, poverty and the interest in mesmerism and spiritualism. 

Through the characters of Pearl and Myrtle and Agnes, Purcell takes a hard look at women's lives, the status and privations felt by unmarried women in particular, grief, and the frightening limits of medical (if you can afford to access it).

Purcell evokes a great sense of place and I found it refreshing to take a look at this period in Bath, rather than the often used London.

Dark with themes of entrapment adding to the claustrophobia, very very well done!
Was this review helpful?
I’ve read Purcell before and loved the way she writes, so I guessing I would like this latest book. I think this is my favourite so far. I loved the story, set in the Victorian era in Bath. Agnes is a silhouette artist, struggling after a slew of bad luck. After a number of her clients die she seeks the help of a medium . She enlists the help of pearl a renowned medium to find the killer. 
I loved the story, the way it was written and the characters. I enjoy the gothic, creepiness of  Purcell's writing I can’t stop reading.
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed this - historical mystery with a bit of are these ghosts real or not is exactly up my street, and this really delivered for me. I loved the historical setting, and the ghostly seances fitted very well with the rest of the story. I thought the pacing was good, as more little bits of information kept coming throughout which explained or further complicated the plot. It also definitely got creepy, especially right towards the end. I was very convinced that I knew what the twist at the end was going to be (and was not looking forward to it to be honest) but the actual twist I didn't see coming at all. Very often with books like this where the mystery is the main element the ending is so so important, and even if it feels just slightly off to me it ruins what might have been up to that point a fantastic book. However in this case, the ending worked perfectly for me and I was not disappointed at all. Would certainly recommend to any historical mystery fans.
Was this review helpful?
Hauntingly beautiful! My favourite of Laura Purcell's books yet. Set in the backdrop 19th century Purcell creates a bleak gothic thriller/horror with flawed and intriguing characters all with fascinating stories of their own. Anyone who enjoys ghost, a spiritualism will love this book!
Was this review helpful?
As a big Laura Purcell fan, I've been so excited to read her latest novel, The Shape of Darkness. Set in Bath in the mid 19th Century, it follows Agnes, a silhouette artist, who, not long after recovering from an illness, discovers that her most recent patrons have been murdered. Seeking help, she visits Pearl, a child spirit medium, hoping that she might be able to provide some answers to why this is happening and why it seems to be targeting her customers. 

Laura Purcell swept me away into 19th century Bath and into Agnes' world. I really enjoyed the split narrative which gave us a look into Pearl's life too. Both such interesting and likeable characters. I devoured The Shape of Darkness in two days and, whilst I saw part of the ending coming, the reality definitely caught me by surprise! 

Gorgeously gothic, Laura Purcell has done it again with her latest novel!
Was this review helpful?
Last year i was extremely disappointed with Purcell's Bone China, and sadly i find myself really let down by her latest as well.

I loved The Silent Companions when it first came out, one of the best horrors ive read. Not only was the story great, but the writing was fantastic.

Thats the one positive i can say about The Shape of Darkness. Purcell is an extremely talented writer. However the story itself was poor. I found the characters very flat, and the story itself was weak and quite transparent.

Id like to read another of her books, but i feel that she needs to move away from Victorian gothic novels, as they cant compare with her debut sadly
Was this review helpful?
A great gothic novel that kept me enthralled till the last page.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and I loved the atmosphere, the well written characters and tightly knitted plot.
Agnes and Pearl are two fleshed out and interesting characters and I loved them.
It's an excellent story that I strongly recommend.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
Was this review helpful?
I’ve decided gothic fiction is not for me. That is no reflection on the book or it’s author. Others will love it.
Was this review helpful?
The Shape of Darkness was well worth the wait! I’ve read two of Laura Purcell’s books on The Pigeonhole, so when this book came up on NetGalley, I knew that I had to read it. This has been one of my half term reads, and well worth the wait! 
Agnes is a silhouette artist in Victorian Bath, and she struggles to support her sickly mother and her nephew - although his father does contribute some money to help feed and clothe him (and help Agnes and her mother too). 
Shortly after one of Agnes’ clients leaves her studio, he is murdered. She then discovers that another client has also been murdered - there is an unnerving pattern forming here, because this is just the start. In order to get some insight, Agnes decides that she should consult a medium. This is where Pearl and her sister Myrtle, a mesmerist-in-training, come in. Pearl is ethereal, a child with albinism, and seems to genuinely possess the gift of communicating with the dead. 
This is an unnerving, chilling and at times, quite a scary book. It’s full of the detail of Victorian life too: poverty, class distinctions, the hustle and bustle of a busy Victorian Bath. I loved the dark, gothic feel, too. It contained loads of details of life, of how technology was changing and affecting the lives of Victorians. And it was just a really excellent mystery that kept me guessing to the very end. If you’re going to read it (and I strongly suggest that you do!), just don’t read it with only the little light on if you’re spooked easily!
Many thanks to Raven Books for providing me with an e-book through NetGalley to read and review.
Was this review helpful?
Laura Purcell's writing is always incredible, and this book is no exception. I love her amazing ability to create immersive, dramatic stories that take place in a world so unlike the modern day. The best escapism with just the right amount of spooky mystery! Highly recommend this brilliant book.
Was this review helpful?
If you've previously read and enjoyed any of Laura Purcell's books, you won't be let down by this one. Eery, atmospheric and spooky - everything you expect from this author. The setting of Victorian Bath works so well for this story, as well as the intriguing macabre cast of characters. Fantastic!
Was this review helpful?
Laura Purcell writes exquisitely detailed and atmospheric Victorian stories that engage you from the first page. She writes with such skill and vibrancy she makes her stories come to life. I really love the worlds she creates, she captures the Victorian era perfectly. In her writing Purcell is very honest and true to the real horrors faced by those living in that time and it gave the story a very authentic feeling. The characters are rich and I loved Agnes especially. Her grief and obsession were conveyed so perfectly in the writing. Pearl was also a highlight as was Myrtle. The way Purcell described Agnes’ work as a silhouette artist was fascinating and the mystery as her clients were killed was excellent. The seances and the chilling atmosphere of those scenes were superbly captured. 

This combined everything I love in a good book; character driven plots, an eerie highly unsettling murder mystery and a story which keeps you hooked from start to finish.
Was this review helpful?
This was my first Laura Purcell book, and I really liked it. 

I wasn't sure initially, but once I got into it I didn't want to stop! I buddy read it with a friend, so it was read in 4 parts, but it was hard to refrain myself from continuing past our agreed stop points! 

Agnes came across quite weak at times, well throughout most of the story,  and I have to wonder if that was deliberately done by the author, to take away from the fact that there was more to Agnes then met the eye. If that was the case,  then it was brilliantly done! 

As for poor Pearl, I felt so bad her. Her sister was absolutely horrid and that's no exaggeration! 

Thank you to NetGalley, publisher Raven Books and Laura Purcell for an eARC of this book.
Was this review helpful?
3.5/5

A gothic mystery set in Bath, we follow Agnes - a struggling silhouette artist - whose life is already under financial strain when one of her clients turns up dead. It would be a coincidence - until her next client is also found dead, and the next. We also follow Pearl - a child-medium - whom Agnes seeks help from in the hope of contacting her clients-turned-victims. But with an ailing father, a sister who is determined to monetise Pearl's gift, and the spirit world taking its toll on Pearl - can they get the answers they need?

What I Liked:
- As always, Purcell writes an atmospheric and engaging tale.
- The oppression of women was bodily at the forefront of this story.
- Definitely readable, kept me turning the page.
- Enjoyed, mostly, the dual perspective - especially after the two met.
- A genuinely intriguing mystery.
- Purcell writes an ambiguous conclusion wonderfully.

What I Didn't Love:
- Although I enjoyed the dual perspective - Pearl's voice was not that of a young child. I often found myself thinking she was in her late teens, but if I remember correctly, she was around 12? If that.
- A lot of the supporting characters felt very two-dimensional and underdeveloped.
- The pacing was fine, mostly, but the end felt very crammed together. As if everything was just happening at once.
- A lot of the twists were predictable (to me).
- Finally, this is my third Purcell book and it feels, at this point, like she's recycling ideas.

Overall I'd recommend this. It was engaging throughout and concluded well - Purcell's writing really does plonk you down in the middle of Bath, and I appreciated the women-are-oppressed-and-it-sucks vibe. If you like Purcell's other stuff, you'll probably enjoy this one. Just don't expect anything too new.

Big thanks to NetGalley, the author, and Raven Books for the eARC. This one's available for UK purchase now!
Was this review helpful?
It’s official - Laura Purcell is the queen of modern gothic historical fiction, there is nothing she can do wrong. ‘The Shape of Darkness’ is a riveting tale that has all the hallmarks of this genre - the dark and dirty bleakness of Victorian Britain, a supernatural storyline and characters that pop off the page. It’s prose is claustrophobic but divine, there are enough red herrings and twists to make sure the reader is captivated, and when you read the final page you just want to dive straight back into the world which Laura has created. 

Agnes is a silhouette portrait maker as a means to help support herself, her mother and her orphaned nephew Cedric. However, in the age of Victorian photographer less people are wanting her services. Agnes still gets a few clients but suddenly her clients are being murdered and she has no idea why?! Agnes has heard of mediums and spiritualism and attends a seance where we find Pearl an albino 9 year old who acts as the medium.   

It is the characters in this book that makes it shine, especially those of Agnes and Pearl. They both share the same innocence and naivety. I personally don’t believe in spiritualism, even when my mum did, to me there is always an explanation and so many of the practitioners of this time period were charlatans. But even so this story sucks you in and you want to believe that Pearl actually has the gift, especially with her blackouts and memory loss. You want to believe that she is special and has a gift and not just being exploited by her elder half-sister. The resolution to the story for both these characters made me gasp, I totally wasn’t expecting either of them in all honesty. I thought the story was going in another direction but then that’s what I love. When an author surprises you it’s truly a magical moment and there were many of those moments in this book. 

Truly this book is great - just read it peeps.
Was this review helpful?
Laura Purcell is making gothic fiction cool again. 

I loved the characters, the descriptions of the shadow makers and the end felt unexpected and satisfying. A perfect book for those cold winter nights.
Was this review helpful?