Review: The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell

Wicked deeds require the cover of darkness…

A struggling silhouette artist in Victorian Bath seeks out a renowned child spirit medium in order to speak to the dead – and to try and identify their killers – in this beguiling new tale from Laura Purcell.

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… 

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…

What secrets lie hidden in the darkness?

When Agnes Darken’s clients begin to die under suspicious circumstances, and she comes under scrutiny with the police and wider society due to her connections to the increasing number of victims, Agnes decides to consult a local girl who is known to connect to the dead. Agnes wants to know who is murdering the people around her, and medium Pearl Meers is desperate to talk to her departed mother. Together they make contact beyond the earthly veil… and their lives will never be the same. 

Laura Purcell delivers yet another morbidly captivating mystery. This oozed moodiness and spookiness so much so I was spellbound. Purcell wields mysticism in such an enthralling way. Seances, crystal balls, shadows in a dark, drafty house combined with the sinister presence of magpies and their piercing caws, culminating in an ominous setting and tone. 

The Shape of Darkness shows the growth in Purcell’s writing; the book really was transportive to a time gone by. The way the characters spoke felt old. And on the point of the characters, I’d say these ones are the best balance Purcell has achieved yet. The story follows two narrators, Agnes Darken and Pearl Meers, both of whom were likeable and their perspectives felt worthwhile. I didn’t prefer one to the other (as I have done with Purcell’s other reads), although I would say toward the second half some character development of Agnes’ didn’t read very smooth. But the way these characters lives contrast and interconnect in numerous ways was so intrinsically clever… Honestly all I can really do is offer a round of applause. 

I’ll also say, just for keeping track and comparisons, I’ve read all of Purcell’s books to date, and for me, The Shape of Darkness is tamer than the likes of either The Silent Companions and The Corset. It’s just as enjoyable and a great offering by Purcell, but I would say it’s lighter in horror than her previous work. 

Nonetheless, Purcell writes with such magnetism. The more you read and discover the story, the more you’re sucked into it in every way. I really enjoyed the way the story was woven together for all ends to meet appropriately. One thing that’s clearer and clearer with every book is Purcell is a natural born storyteller, and The Shape of Darkness firmly cements Purcell as an auto-buy author for me. It is quite frankly a must read for lovers of this genre and murder mysteries.

Thank you kindly to the publishers and Netgalley for providing me with an e-ARC, in exchange for this honest review.

Buy It Now


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