The Whispering Muse

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Pub Date 2 Feb 2023 | Archive Date 9 Feb 2023

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'Darkly seductive and artfully realised ... Undoubtedly her best Gothic tale yet!' Susan Stokes-Chapman, author of PANDORA

'Spooky, atmospheric, brilliant' Bridget Collins, author of THE BINDING

Be careful what you wish for... it may just come true.

At The Mercury Theatre in London's West End, rumours are circulating of a curse.

It is said that the lead actress Lilith has made a pact with Melpomene, the tragic muse of Greek mythology, to become the greatest actress to ever grace the stage. Suspicious of Lilith, the jealous wife of the theatre owner sends dresser Jenny to spy on her.

As strange events begin to take place around the theatre, Jenny wonders if the rumours about Lilith are true, and fears that when the Muse comes calling for payment, the cost will be too high.

From the Sunday Times bestselling author comes a gripping tale of obsession, superstition and ambition, set against the atmospheric backdrop of Victorian London.

'Darkly seductive and artfully realised ... Undoubtedly her best Gothic tale yet!' Susan Stokes-Chapman, author of PANDORA

'Spooky, atmospheric, brilliant' Bridget Collins, author of THE BINDING


Advance Praise

‘Atmospheric, gripping, absorbing – The Whispering Muse is another Gothic triumph from Laura Purcell. It's deliciously creepy, riveting and full of heart with compelling characters and brilliant twists. The theatrical setting and use of the tragedies on stage that are woven expertly into the unfolding story is glitteringly dark and mesmerising’ JENNIFER SAINT

‘Dripping with atmosphere and mounting dread, The Whispering Muse will haunt you long past the final page. Laura Purcell is a master of her craft. I still have goosebumps!’ ERIN A. CRAIG

'Fabulous characters, twists and turns aplenty. Deliciously dark and very satisfying' REBECCA NETLEY

'Deliciously creepy and vividly told, this gorgeous Gothic tale is already one of my favourite books of the year'  JJA HARWOOD

‘Atmospheric, gripping, absorbing – The Whispering Muse is another Gothic triumph from Laura Purcell. It's deliciously creepy, riveting and full of heart with compelling characters and brilliant...

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EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9781526627186
PRICE £14.99 (GBP)

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Average rating from 175 members

Featured Reviews

The Whispering Muse isn’t necessarily creepy or scary like The Silent Companions, although there definitely are a few moments, but it’s dark, gothic and unashamedly unsettling.
The story follows Jenny, a young woman looking for a second chance after her brother caused her trouble, and taking employment in the Mercury Theatre in the West End, dressing rising star and lead actress Lilith Erikson. Employed by a jealous Mrs Dyer, Jenny also has been instructed with a secondary job, to spy on Lilith and report back, a woman deemed unseemly, strange and too familiar with Mr Dyer. As Jenny works alongside a Lilith, she learns of rumours of a pact Lilith has made, like her predecessor, with the tragic muse of Greek mythology, Melpomene, for fame and greatness on the stage, and the bloody, treacherous impact this has.

The heart of this book is Lilith, she’s complex, the tragic muse, the misunderstood woman, her scenes are rich, tortured and I felt really drawn to her, especially the more she was unravelled. She is a wonderful creation. Jenny is the protagonist to the story and while I didn’t necessarily like her at the start of the book, I warmed to her the more I understood her and her past, and her character really grew and developed throughout the pages, especially alongside Lilith.
The theatre itself is almost its own character, the plays and quotes from their scripts are deliciously and seamlessly included in the book and there’s a real menacing, uncomfortable atmosphere you get on the page from the theatre environment and the threat of Melpomene, especially as the story goes on. This book doesn’t shy away from blood (while not being gratuitous), certain moments made me uncomfortable with how horrific or tragic they are, and there are some effective spooky, dramatic moments, but in fact the true horror in this book is how people treat people, particularly women and the poisons that are jealously and desperation and the victims they leave.

Thank you NetGalley for the copy in exchange for an honest review

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I absolutely loved this book! It was deliciously creepy and mysterious and so atmospheric - I was in The Mercury Theatre, watching those performances, I could even hear that watch ticking. The tension mounted perfectly and I knew bad things were about to happen but one particular scene was so grisly I gasped and disturbed my sleeping husband. I loved the compelling and complex relationships between Jenny and Mrs Dyer and Jenny and Lilith and the way they developed. I can’t really fault anything about this, the ending was exactly right. It was dark, dramatic and tragic and so evocative. I loved The Silent Companions but I think The Whispering Muse is Laura Purcell’s finest so far. Highly recommend.

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I love dark, creepy and gothic novels and this midern gothic didn't disappoint. It was chilling and haunting and at times I literally had to stop reading because the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck were raised. A fantastic read.

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Really creepy gothic horror finds its perfect setting in a Victorian theatre, full of superstition, ambition and dramatic exits!

There's just so much to love about this book, that I'm not sure where to start.

Okay, let's start with the main character, Jenny. She is just such a delight. It may feel at first like a familiar story, a Victorian orphan having to work in service to look after her younger siblings, including a handicapped brother, Jenny has lost her position and fallen on hard times after her older brother ran off with anything of value he could get his hands on. She does what she needs to do to look after her family, with such a fiercely protective instinct. But what I love most about Jenny is her attitude. She takes absolutely no shit off anybody and it is such a joy to watch. She's sarcastic, cutting, mean even, but somehow never comes across as an unpleasant or unsympathetic character. She's just someone who stands up for herself and tells people what she thinks, and for someone in her position in society, with so much at risk, that comes across as incredibly brave and bold. It also doesn't feel anachronistic, and that may be due in part to the theatre setting, typically outside of societal norms, and also because she's very clever about it. She knows when to toe the line, and is often careful about what she says to Mrs Drury in particular, when she holds power over her, but also knows when she can get away with flashing her attitude.

The setting is perfect. The theatre fits into the Gothic storytelling so brilliantly, full of superstitions and pretence and ambitious, dramatic people jockeying for positions and roles and playing games against each other. The presence of a supernatural muse, or maybe some other entity, feels just right in that setting. It's also a place full of danger and mystery, with all of its trapdoors and overhead platforms and props.

The book is constructed around a series of plays, each one forming an "Act" of the novel. I'm sure there's some very in depth analysis that could be done around the choice of plays and how they drive the plot of the story, but for me they just felt like they fit it really well. The different tragedies staged in the Mercury showed us different aspects of our stars as things grew progressively more perilous and frightening.

I also loved the way the supernatural was presented as something that could be real, or could be an aspect of our characters losing their minds and losing the plot. There was nothing that definitively said "The supernatural elements are real" or "They're all just figments of their imagination" and that uncertainty was quite delicious.

The Whispering Muse is ultimately a story about doing a deal with devils, and it was so clever how this was echoed throughout the novel. It's not Lilith, the tragic lead actress, who appears to have done a literal deal with some kind of devil. Jenny has done her own deal with her employer that leaves her questioning her morals and her decisions, just what she is prepared to do to protect her family, and how far she'll go. Lilith has her deal with her Guv'nor to live with, and this puts her in some very difficult positions with no sign of any way out. Other characters, too, have their own individual deals with stand-in devils. This mix of the metaphorical and the literal echoes the mix of the drama on stage and the drama in the theatre beautifully, and pulls everything together so effectively!

This is, without a doubt, a harrowing read. There were sections that had me feeling shook and genuinely quite queasy. It contains abortions and suicides and describes both in pretty graphic terms that are not for the faint hearted. But this worked for me, giving The Whispering Muse a powerful, visceral feel that really had an impact on me. It's a story that got under my skin and left me feeling disturbed, as all good Gothic horror should!

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She is waiting for you ★★★★★

Contemporary Gothic is my favourite genre and nobody does that better then Laura Purcell. I’m a massive fan of her previous novels – especially The Silent Companions (2017) and The Shape of Darkness (2021) – and now I can add The Whispering Muse to the list.

In Victorian London, Jenny is forced to take on a job at The Mercury Theatre, her brother’s erstwhile employer, to secure a better life for her siblings. Dressing new leading actress Lilith is the less challenging part of the bargain; she must also be the theatre owner’s wife’s spy.

However, something far worse than Lilith’s tantrums and Mrs Dyer’s dangerous jealousies lurks in the theatre, whispering in the shadows. A dark force is draining the life out of the theatre and the leading lady. What is the mystery of the silver watch? And what is the price of greatness on the stage?

A chilling and compelling Faustian tale which I devoured in 24 hours.

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A haunting tale, where Jenny gets a job as a dresser in a theatre, the Mercury, sent by Mrs Dyer to spy on Lilith, the actress with a leading role. Whilst I cannot reveal the plot for fear of spoiling it, there are some surprising twists and turns in it, and I can highly recommend this novel as a brilliant read, that gave me an insight into the world of the theatre.

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So pleased to be able to read another Laura Purcell book; "The Whispering Muse" doesn't disappoint. Full of atmosphere, this book captures life at a Victorian theatre perfectly. Filled to the brim with superstition, plays and gothic characters galore. Excellent stuff!

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❤️🎭 The Whispering Muse by Laura Purcell 🎭❤️

Thank you NetGalley for this ARC!

I have loved all of Laura Purcell’s works so far, and this is no exception. It’s rare for a book to grip me so tightly in just the first few pages, but Purcell’s wonderful mastery with words, hooked me in straightaway.

Sometimes the first person perspective does not always connect with me but I immediately empathised with Jenny and her siblings. The mystery of her brother and the allure of the theatre (and all of the intriguing characters within!) captivated me until the end!

The theatre was the perfect setting. The imagery was excellent, I loved every aspect: being in the audience, exploring backstage, and entering the dressing room.

The subplots in this story was just the icing on the cake - perfectly woven. I just devoured this one!


One of my favourites this year 😁

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