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The Shape of Darkness

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  111 ratings  ·  74 reviews
As the age of the photograph dawns in Victorian Bath, silhouette artist Agnes is struggling to keep her business afloat. Still recovering from a serious illness herself, making enough money to support her elderly mother and her orphaned nephew Cedric has never been easy, but then one of her clients is murdered shortly after sitting for Agnes, and then another, and another. ...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published January 21st 2021 by Raven Books
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Average rating 4.20  · 
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Oct 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
The bleak, dark, and oppressive atmosphere of mid 19th century Bath, a dirty and unsanitary place, lends much to the supernatural storyline, as it winds its ethereal way down the misty paths of mediumship, with a little mesmerism thrown in for good measure.

Agnes Darken lives with her elderly mother and orphaned nephew Cedric. She earns a living as a silhouette artist in order to support the three of them - that is until one of her clients is found murdered, shortly after sitting for Agnes. Natur
Sep 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Ms Purcell has become one of my favourite Victorian ghotic authors, and I was delighted to have been offered the latest of her books to read.
Bath, 1854. The times of increased interest in mesmerism, spiritual seanses and the art of making silhuettes that is becoming less and less popular due to new techniques, namely, daguerreotype and photography.
Agnes Darken lives with her ailing mother and her nephew trying to make ends meet by making silhuettes. Mysteriously, her sitters become victims of
Once again Laura Purcell gives us perfect winter reading fare with her atmospheric Victorian era Gothic spine chiller set in the filthy, disease ridden, bleak streets of Bath in the late 19th century. Agnes Darken has been struck by illness that has left her fragile and vulnerable, a woman with responsibilities to provide for her elderly mother and her much loved orphan nephew Cedric. As a silhouette artist, she is struggling in a time where people are turning to and preferring the new fields of ...more
Sep 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Agnes Darken is an artist, a creator of silhouettes which is a dying art with people now preferring daguerreotypes. Pearl Meers, ‘The White Sylph’ is an albino spirit guide and her half sister Myrtle West is a mesmerist. These three women connect in the most surprising of ways in this Victorian Gothic Murder Mystery set in Bath.

This is a fantastical read! Laura Purcell’s writing feels so authentically Victorian that it is as if it is a gothic mystery from the era. It has every element required
Anna Luce
/ / / Read more reviews on my blog / / /


At first I thought that The Shape of Darkness was going to be a spoof of Gothic novels. The dialogues were corny, the two main characters are exceedingly frail, and the 'murder mystery' storyline struck me as somewhat theatrical (or perhaps I should say more suited to a film than a book). But I was willing to read on, thinking that these exaggerations were intentional and that Laura Purcell was lampooning Victorian ghost stories...but the mor
Nov 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Shape of Darkness is another chilling gothic tale from Laura Purcell. I have read her previous books and this one seems to be more darker than her previous.
Set in the 1800’s in Bath, Agnes Darken is a Silhouette artist, cutting portraits out of paper. She lives with her mother and her nephew. But doing this has some disadvantages. Currently all the people she has made portraits for have ended up dead. She can’t understand why the killer is targeting her clients. The police do not suspect he
Nov 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Book out in 2021 SET IN BATH

Oh if you love a gothic novel that contains mesmerism, ghosts, seances, and mystery built upon mystery then this is for you! Spooky and ethereal. I was totally immersed in the scene building, the glorious dark rooms, flickering candles and moving shadows. I felt as if I should have been wearing crinoline whilst reading it, with those cotton gloves on that the women used to wear. I had to go out once when reading it and was disappointed a hansom cab wa
Dec 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful! I really do love stories centring around Victorian spiritualism plus this author is very talented. I found the story completely engrossing and the ending left me in awe. Many thanks to Netgalley for an arc of this book.
Robin Stevens
Dec 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Viciously spooky and, as always, with a horrible twist in the tale, this is one of my favourite Laura Purcell books yet, a brilliant cross between a murder mystery and a ghost story. (16+)

*Please note: this review is meant as a recommendation only. Please do not use it in any marketing material, online or in print, without asking permission from me first. Thank you!*
Jan 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I read this within 48hrs – far quicker than I usually manage these days, but that’s because it's so compelling. The atmosphere just pours from the pages; a perfect example of the genre (gothic). It was a nice original touch to have such an unusual job for the main character too (silhouette artist). Wonderful!

I got this on Netgalley (I've been lucky lately!)
Angela Watt
Sep 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
It's rare for a book to stop me in my tracks, trap me in a chair, away from all else and where I keep saying 'just one more chapter, just one more chapter.' But 'The Shape of Darkness' by Laura Purcell did just that. And now it is over, I am sad, and wondering what could fill the Agnes shaped gap in my life.

Let's get it right up front that I love all the books Laura Purcell has written and so I was thrilled to find myself with an early copy of her latest book, courtesy of the author, publisher a
Nov 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Laura Purcell is rapidly growing to be one of my go to authors for quirky, twisty Gothic historical fiction and The Shape of Darkness does not disappoint, it is up there with her other books, including the much praised The Silent Companions and my own firm favourite The Corset.

The main protagonist is Agnes, a middle aged spinster, struggling to make a living as a silhouette artist, living with her is her querulous Mother and her beloved nephew Cedric. Recovering from illness, when two of her rec
Lisa Sell
Sep 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a haunting story that will remain with me for some time. The sign of a great book, for me, is a plot that makes you think and sticks with you. The Shape of Darkness definitely does these things.

The characters are richly described, from the complex Agnes to the mysterious and fragile Pearl. Not a single character is there without reason. The interweaving of their lives is the most enjoyable part of this novel.

I loved the depictions of the era, houses, and streets. Laura Purcell has a tale
Dec 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
I have loved every book published by Laura Purcell and this one was no exception.

Purcell has such a talent for creating believable and atmospheric historical settings which she uses to brilliant effect when telling dark, haunting and mysterious stories.

The Shape of Darkness follows a woman named Agnes, a silhouette artist in Victorian Bath, who discovers that her clients are being murdered shortly after sitting for her. To unravel the mystery she enlists the help of a young girl named Pearl wh
Oct 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-books-read
I have read all Laura Purcell’s books and they just keep getting better. They are all so individually different and brilliant. This book definitely ticks all the boxes for me. It is the perfect Victorian gothic thriller. It is brilliantly believable and creepy with so many great twists that you just don’t see coming.

Agnes is struggling to recover from an illness, keep her business going and look after her family. Then one day one of her clients is found brutally murdered, and then another...Des
Dan Bassett
Oct 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
When silhouette artist Agnes’s clients start being murdered, she approaches Pearl, a renowned child spirit medium to attempt to make contact with those who have passed on and reveal just who killed them.
But Agnes and Pearl soon discover they may have opened a door that cannot be locked.... what secrets lie hidden in the darkness?
Set to the backdrop of a gritty, grey and beguiling 1800’s Bath, England you follow Agnes, an ailing Silhouette artist who’s business has seen better days, likewise her
Jan 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Laura Purcell has yet to write a bad book. Each one she writes is marvellous in it's own special way about it's own special subject and this one was utterly gripping from the very beginning. It will suck you in, keep you guessing, leave you scratching your head, trip you up, give you thrills and chills and have you reaching for anything else the author has written. Taking place in the atmospheric setting of Victorian Bath we are introduced to the impoverished world of Agnes Darken, silhouette ar ...more
Martin Paul
Sep 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Courtesy of NetGalley, I was grateful for the opportunity to preview Laura Purcell's latest book, The Shape of Darkness. The good news is she's delivered yet another winner. I've been in an historical spooky mystery phase for a while and her books fit right in.

These days authors such as ES Thomson, Laura Shepherd-Robinson and Katherine Stansfield publish stories full of rich detail, accurate portrayals of 18th and 19th century Britain, and fully rounded characters, all of which paint a vivid ba
Beth Chats Books
Nov 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a deliciously wicked gothic tale. Set in the late 1800s in Bath, this story follows Agnes Darken, a silhouette artist who finds herself embroiled in a murder mystery that scandalises the city. Everyone who seems to pose for one of Agnes’s pieces starts to meet their untimely demise. Fearful that the murderer is trying to communicate with her, Agnes finds herself seeking answers from her dead relatives and former clients through the help of a medium, a 11 year old albino girl called Pearl ...more
When Agnes Darken’s clients begin to die under suspicious circumstances, and she comes under scrutiny with the police and wider society due to her connections to the increasing number of victims, Agnes decides to consult a local girl who is known to connect to the dead. Agnes wants to know who is murdering the people around her, and medium Pearl Meers is desperate to talk to her departed mother. Together they make contact beyond the earthly veil... and their lives will never be the same.

Laura P
This gothic story set in Bath follows Agnes who is silhouette artist and young Pearl who is a medium. Through certain circumstances both characters are to find each other and the story goes on from there.

I really enjoyed The Silent Companions and The Corset, didn't enjoy Bone China as much and this book The Shape of Darkness even less.

What I did enjoy was the historical setting and descriptions, and from that I did get the sense of place. I also enjoyed how the silhouettes that Agnes created al
Jan 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
I was sent an arc of this book via Netgalley in exchange for a honest review.

This author is becoming a go to for me in supernatural historical fiction. I always enjoy the atmosphere that they have. I don't know why, but spooky stories set in modern setting just aren't as creepy to me as a historical setting. 

I did find the pacing a little more slow in the middle but it soon picked up again. I can't say too much about the plot since I think it's better if you don't know too much. There were s
Lel Budge
Jan 21, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in Bath in the 19th century and Agnes lives with her aged mother and nephew. She just about manages to support her family by being a silhouette artist.

But then her customers begin dying soon after she visits them, she believes someone is trying to ruin her and her business by murdering them. But who and why?

So, Agnes visits a medium to try and contact the victims and find out who the killer is…..things then get dark and creepy.

This is a marvellously dark gothic Murder mystery set against a p
Jen Burrows
With The Shape of Darkness Laura Purcell has, once again, crafted a compelling gothic story. This is historical fiction without the gloss: Agnes' Bath is bleak and grimy, choked with disease - and ghosts.

There are some striking scenes and genuinely spooky moments, but I can't help but wish Purcell had picked one trope and stuck to it. With spooky silhouettes, prescient seances and maraudering murderers, there is a lot to unpack. By the end there are simply too many threads to tie together to rea
Charlotte Cantillon
Dec 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley-arcs
I love Laura Purcell. The Silent Companions is one of my favourite books and the book I regularly recommend as one of the scariest ghost stories I’ve ever read.

The Shape of Darkness is the story of Agnes, whose sister is dead and who works making silhouettes in Victorian Bath. It tells the story of the mystery around people dying who have recently been customers of hers.

Alongside Agnes’ story is the story of Pearl, who works as a kind of spiritual medium with her older sister.

This is a great, s
Aimee Walker Editorial
Jan 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
Laura Purcell is one of my must-read authors so I was delighted to receive this ARC in exchange for an honest review. I wasn't disappointed; this had me gripped throughout. Victorian gothic at its best, creepy, full of atmosphere and intrigue. Purcell clearly does her research and comes up with a really unusual story every time, all based on actual historical context – this time, the fashion of mesmerism, the emergence of photography and the horrific consequences of working in match factories. I ...more
Sep 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Vikki Patis
Sep 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Laura Purcell is without a doubt one of the best writers of our time. Her intricately woven stories are instantly gripping and atmospheric, her characters bold and fierce. I have read all of her gothic historical fiction novels so far and have loved each one more than the last. The Shape of Darkness is a triumphant foray into the world of Victorian spiritualism and deception, of women and girls doing what they can to survive. It is dark and captivating and absolutely perfect.
Dec 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-books
Agnes is a silhouette artist in 1850s Bath, caring for her nephew and her mother and struggling to make ends meet. When her sitters start dying one after the other, she requests the help of young Pearl, 11, who can communicate with the dead, and she tries and finds out who murdered the people whose silhouettes she cut in paper and who is thus hurting her business.

I find Laura Purcell's historial fiction exquisite - well-written, full of suspense, with characters that you get attached to, and wh
Ellie ↟
Sep 15, 2020 rated it liked it
2.5/5 stars overall.

This is not my first Laura Purcell novel. I previously tried to read The Silent Companions but had to give up part way through due to utter frustration and boredom. This one was definitely a big improvement but I still had some issues with it.

The Shape Of Darkness is a Victorian era novel about a woman called Agnes who earns her living through her craft of cutting paper silhouettes. When a murderer stars targeting her clients causing her business to struggle she enlists the
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Laura Purcell is a former bookseller and lives in Colchester with her husband and pet guinea pigs.

Her first novel for Raven Books THE SILENT COMPANIONS won the WHSmith Thumping Good Read Award 2018 and featured in both the Zoe Ball and Radio 2 Book Clubs. Other Gothic novels include THE CORSET (THE POISON THREAD in USA), BONE CHINA and THE SHAPE OF DARKNESS (2020)

Laura’s historical fiction about

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