A richly gothic narrative drives the plot of this creepy mystery novel by Laura Purcell, author of ‘The Silent Companions’ and ‘The Corset’.
The book’s narrative is split into two distinct time frames which centre around Morvoren House – an isolated and exposed property set close to the sea. Initially, the story begins with the plight of a woman, Miss Hester Why, who is hastily fleeing on a coach to Cornwall; the weather is extreme and the travel riddle with anxiety and discomfort. She’s instantly an intriguing character who has hidden secrets and who soon finds herself in another environment where all is not at ease; the wildness of the elements is a constant eerie threat and backdrop.
I love Purcell’s writing style and the language is rich, emotive and sensory. It’s also soon evident that Morvorven House is not the safe place she needs. There’s a group of contrasting characters from the kind to the bizarre. I love the underlying threat of insecurity and menace that quickly builds. I also loved how Hester was clearly a flawed character and enjoyed the slow reveal of her past and how she became the troubled young woman we meet.
The other main narrative comes from the past and it’s the story of a grieving medical doctor and his daughter, Louise Pinecroft. This was such a sorrowful story and I really enjoyed making connections to Hester’s situation in Morvoren House and the historical detail of the revolutionary medical trials with prisoners in the bleak Cornish caves.
With themes of alcoholism, isolation, the fairy-world, drug dependency and grief driving the storytelling, this is a rich and sensory historical read with its roots in sorrow, angst and torment. Just my cup of tea!
Huge thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury/Raven Books for the review copy.