Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Poison Thread by Laura Purcell

I started this novel on Saturday and found myself sucked into the story very quickly. Laura Purcell's second offering (after The Silent Companions) is one heck of a ride, combining a Dickensian atmosphere with elements of a horror novel, a thriller, and of women caught in the rigid structure of early Victorian rules and expectations. I simply couldn't put it down. 

There are two main characters: Dorothea Truelove, a young, wealthy woman approaching her 25th birthday, and Ruth Butterham, a young woman imprisoned and waiting trial for murder. Dorothea visits prisons to offer comfort to incarcerated women, and it also gives her a chance to explore her obsession with phrenology: a study of human behavior traits expressed through the shape of the skull. Yes, if you have bumps in a certain location, or your skull is shaped a certain way, it shouts to the world exactly who you are: a deep thinker? A worrier? A murderer?

Ruth's story is just plain awful. Only sixteen, she's lived the past four years in complete hell. Skillful with a needle, she's convinced her skill has given her the power to affect anyone who wears the clothing the makes--and by affect, I mean deadly. I don't want to tell Ruth's tale, because it is so compelling, and every other chapter is Ruth telling her story, from the age of twelve, being tormented by the girls in her school because she's poor. It seems like Ruth never had a chance at a normal life, and now she's facing execution. Dorothea quickly becomes obsessed with Ruth, all while trying to avoid her pushy father, who wants her to marry (she's becoming an embarrassment at her advanced age), and also because he wants to marry again-an odious woman Dorothea despises. There's a bit of a mystery between Dorothea and her father, and oh boy does that slowly unravel to a surprise--you probably figure it out before Dorothea does, but it's still "Whoa!". 

I love this novel-it was pretty dark, but so enthralling. Ruth's story unfolding slowly, entwined with Dorothea's story gives you two plots that satisfyingly conclude together, with a few surprises that really give the novel a bang of an ending. Both women, at the mercy of other's whims, struggle for one thing: happiness and love. Do they get it? Read to find out! 

This novel will be published in the United States on June 18 in paperback. It's already published in England under the title The Corset. A huge thanks to Penguin for providing an ARC for review. 

Rating: 5/6 for a gothic thriller that I simply couldn't put down. Ruth is such a compelling character, your heart bleeds for her. Dorothea--she's quite the character, too--as you shall see. A perfect read for those who enjoy dark, atmospheric thrillers. 


  1. Is there a supernatural element to it? Does Ruth's clothing really affect people?

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