I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Whispering Muse by Laura Purcell
Published by Raven Books on 2 Feb, 2023
Genres: Fiction, Gothic, Historical Fiction, Victorian Era, Horror, Mystery
Format: ARC, eBook
Source: NetGalley, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
_______________'Laura Purcell, a skilful purveyor of gothic tales, has created another darkly twisting narrative in The Whispering Muse' Sunday Times'Spooky, atmospheric, brilliant... I think I love it the best out of all Laura's books. Watch out for it - but beware...' Bridget Collins, author of number one bestseller, The Binding'Deliciously creepy, riveting and full of heart with compelling characters and brilliant twists ... glitteringly dark and mesmerising' Jennifer Saint, Sunday Times bestselling author of Ariadne and Elektra_______________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, and desperate for the money to help her family, Jenny agrees. What Jenny finds is a woman as astonishing in her performance as she is provocative in nature. On stage, it's as though Lilith is possessed by the characters she plays, yet off stage she is as tragic as the Muse who inspires her, and Jenny, sorry for her, befriends the troubled actress. But when strange events begin to take place around the theatre, Jenny wonders if the rumours are true, and fears that when the Muse comes calling for payment, the cost will be too high._______________'Gloriously gothic' Erin Kelly'Immersive' Beth Underdown 'Fantastic' Rebecca Netley 'Darkly seductive and artfully realised' Susan Stokes-Chapman
The Whispering Muse is everything that Gothic horror should be. It’s haunting, eerie, and compulsive. A cautionary tale that you should never underestimate a woman’s ability to exact revenge.
The Whispering Muse by Laura Purcell is definitely a contender for book of the year. The plight of a young woman trying to make ends meet to care for her family. Their brother ran off with another man’s fiancée and stole from Jenny’s employer threatening to bring her record into disrepute. The story is told in Victorian London and let me tell you – I was right there. I imagined the cobbled streets, the smog, the costumes, the inequality. Laura Purcell has a way of transporting her readers into the heart of the tale with her strong narrative skills.
Jenny has a hard life, like many families during Victorian London. Jobs are low paying and living conditions are harsh, but she makes do. After her brother leaves them in disgrace, Jenny is made to step up, to become head of the household. Her brother, Bertie needs an operation to correct club foot. They’d almost saved up enough but then her brother took that too. Jenny is invited to The Mercury theatre by its owner’s wife, Mrs Dyer, she fears its to recompense them for all her brother stole. It appears she wants to offer her a position at the theatre of dresser to their leading lady, Lilith. She is paid handsomely, however, there is a catch, of course there is.
Mrs Dyer does not like Lilith. She wants Jenny to spy on her and report back to Mrs Dyer with her weekly findings. Jenny does see that things are not as they seem with Lilith. She’s avoiding being measured for her costumes and Jenny makes it her mission to find out why. Although they have a prickly relationship together, with Lilith calling her Kitty, due to her catty behaviour, made me chuckle, they do eventually become friends. Lilith is vastly misunderstood and is also a victim of being a woman in Victorian Britain, her stature as a woman is fragile and it takes being propped up by a man with status to propel her career as an actress. My feminist rage felt for her.
Mrs Dyer wants to prepare Jenny for theatre life and Shakespeare productions in particular. She pays for her to see Dr. Faustus at a local theatre. The actor playing Faustus is well renowned for being the best. But the performance becomes marred with tragedy when the actor dies on stage in a grisly and gory fashion. A small timepiece seems to be connected and Jenny feels distraught at what she’s witnessed.
Events very quickly get out of hand and Jenny is led down a dangerous road. She is riddled with guilt for her part, and she decides to try and make amends by any means necessary. I really liked Jenny – she is a pure character that wants to see the best in everyone and is fiercely protective of her family. I felt for her as she is pulled in many different directions. She feels the pressure of being a mother figure, a good employee, but what does it leave of herself?
Laura Purcell is an amazing writer. She has a piercing talent that manages to get under her reader’s skin. The descriptions of the theatre world made me fall in love. The novel has a sense of creeping dread running through its pages. You know something is up, but you’re just waiting for the payoff and boy when it hits *chefs kiss*
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Purcell is a former bookseller living in Colchester, Essex with her husband and pet guinea pigs.
She began her career with two historical novels about the Hanoverian monarchs, Queen of Bedlam and Mistress of the Court before her break-out Gothic ghost story The Silent Companions.
The Silent Companions won the WHSmith Thumping Good Read Award in 2018 and was shortlisted for the Goldsboro Glass Bell. It was selected for both the Radio 2 Book Club and Zoe Ball’s ITV Book Club.
The Shape of Darkness won a Fingerprint Award for Historical Crime Book of the Year 2022 and was shortlisted for both an Edgar Award and a Dead Good Readers’ Award.
Laura’s short stories have been published in a number of collections including the Sunday Times best-selling The Haunting Season. She recently worked as lead writer on Roanoke Falls, a Realm podcast executive produced by John Carpenter and Sandy King Carpenter. It won a silver Signal Award for Best Scripted Fiction.
Please note that in the USA Laura is published by Penguin Books, where The Corset is titled The Poison Thread and Bone China is called The House of Whispers.
Photo Credit: Jasmine-Leann Gaterell https://www.instagram.com/tobewanderlustcreative/
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