The Shape of Darkness

Penguin Pr. Jun. 2021. 320p. ISBN 9780143135548. pap. $17. F
Purcell’s latest (after The House of Whispers), set in Bath in the 1800s, focuses on the tragic luck of silhouette artist Agnes Darken, whose clients begin to die after sitting for her portraits. Eager to find the killer, and save her meager stream of income, Agnes requests the help of an 11-year-old medium named Pearl and her half-sister Myrtle, a mesmerist. The sisters initially embrace Agnes’s request for help, as they barter for assistance with their ailing father’s health needs from Agnes’s brother-in-law Simon, a doctor. After Simon’s house call reveals concerns about the household, Agnes and Pearl meet in secret to try and advance the case. As more victims appear, and Agnes’s nephew Cedric is kidnapped, she begins to wonder if she is, somehow, foretelling these murders. Has her own fragile health opened a gateway to the beyond? The appearance of her former fiancé complicates matters even further, forcing Agnes to decide whom she can save, and how.
VERDICT This is a well-crafted Gothic tale, complete with a compulsive mystery and the visceral medical details of Emma Donoghue’s The Pull of the Stars.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing