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Tuesday, July 2, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: The Poison Thread by Laura Purcell @spookypurcell @penguinbooks @jessmapreviews

The Poison Thread 
by Laura Purcell

Thank you to Penguin Books for these copies.

Publisher: Penguin Books
Publish Date: June 18, 2019
351 Pages
Genres: Historical Fiction, Gothic

A thrilling Victorian gothic horror tale about a young seamstress who claims her needle and thread have the power to kill

Dorothea Truelove is young, wealthy, and beautiful. Ruth Butterham is young, poor, and awaiting trial for murder.

When Dorothea's charitable work brings her to Oakgate Prison, she is delighted by the chance to explore her fascination with phrenology and test her hypothesis that the shape of a person's skull can cast a light on their darkest crimes. But when she meets one of the prisoners, the teenaged seamstress Ruth, she is faced with another strange idea: that it is possible to kill with a needle and thread--because Ruth attributes her crimes to a supernatural power inherent in her stitches.

The story Ruth has to tell of her deadly creations--of bitterness and betrayal, of death and dresses--will shake Dorothea's belief in rationality, and the power of redemption. Can Ruth be trusted? Is she mad, or a murderer? The Poison Thread is a spine-tingling, sinister read about the evil that lurks behind the facade of innocence.

My Review:

One of the things that have always fascinated me is how science, psychology, ALL the things were done back in the day. This story centers around Dorothea and her love for phrenology (the detailed study of the shape and size of the cranium as a supposed indication of character and mental abilities) and Ruth, in prison as a murderess... and at such a young age.  She believes her needles and sewing have the ability to harm and Dorothea needs to measure her cranium while listening to her story.  A story she only trusts Dorothea with for some reason.

It took me into the 100+ pages for this book to really capture me.  I always know that going into this type of Victorian gothic historical fiction read that it will usually run slower for me than other reads and I'm glad that I stuck through this one.  One scene in particular really set my mouth in an "O" and then I was like ok ok ok... here we go now.  This book certainly keeps at a steady slow pace, if that makes any sense.  It kept my interest just enough to need to know where the heck it was going to go.  To be honest, I'm still a little baffled by the ending. SOMEBODY WHO HAS READ THIS PLEASE TALK TO ME ABOUT IT.

The Poison Thread starts very somberly and never lets up in this atmosphere.  Don't come into this read looking for a feel good type.  It's a definite look into the Victorian era and how certain classes of people treated others.  What people needed to do to survive.  The craziness of everything and everyone involved.  I'm not sure so many characters needed to be in this story.  However, I can also see why they were needed to add this and that to the story.  I'm a bit flummoxed as to exactly how I feel after turning the last page.  The story certainly didn't go in the direction that I thought it would.  I actually adored the historical part in Dorothea's work and Ruth's plight.  And yes, I'm feeling my skull as I type this (multi-tasking at its best) to see if I'm partial to a murdering way... but I'll never tell.  *wink*


Jessica's Review:

I picked up Laura Purcell for the first time last year with her book, THE SILENT COMPANIONS. I loved the Gothic feel and how the eeriness slowly consumed you as you read. THE POISON THREAD has that familiar Gothic atmosphere to it and a sinister and foreboding undertone.

Dorothea is a young woman with a hobby and fascination with phrenology (the detailed study of the shape and size of the cranium as a supposed indication of character and mental abilities - from She is thrilled when she is given the opportunity to study Ruth Butterham who is a young woman awaiting a murder trial in prison.

As Dorothea studies Ruth she is confided in with her story. Ruth believes that she has supernatural abilities from her needle and thread. As a seamstress, Ruth has many stories to tell about her creations and her belief in how they are linked to her crimes. Can a needle and thread really kill? We alternate between Dorothea and Ruth and we get a glimpse into how different their lives truly are - Dorothea growing up in a life of privilege and Ruth's hard life and abuse at the hands of her mistress.

I did enjoy the more unique premise to this Gothic mystery. The only real struggle I had was that it did start off so slow. I've come to expect a slower build to these more Victorian novels, but this was a little too slow for my liking. There were a lot of characters and it got a little muddled and confusing at some times. Despite being slower, once you got to the halfway point it did begin to pick up! I'll continue to pick up books from Purcell in the future because I do really enjoy her writing and how atmospheric her books have been!

3.5 stars

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