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May 20, 2019

The Poison Thread by Laura Purcell

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Poison Thread: A Novel by Laura Purcell
Penguin Books, June 18 2019
Historical Fictions, suspense/Gothic
Review copy via NetGalley

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 of The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell can be found here.

I can't say no to a Victorian Gothic tale and I really enjoyed this author's previous novel The Silent Companions. The Poison Thread is the US edition of an already released UK edition titled The Corset which I will never understand why there has to be months between these releases and confusing everyone in the world wide web of different titles etc.

The premise of this story from Dorothea's point of view is that the shape of someone's head, phrenology, dictates a person's moral character. Which is horse pooey and a slightly annoying theme to this story but does well to underscore the psychological suspense. And the creepier theme is that Ruth, who is now a prisoner, believes she is able to harm people by infusing powerful thoughts while sewing something for a specific person. Everything she stitches has become some sort of poison to its wearer and eventually Ruth is put in jail for causing such harm to others. This is how Dorothea and Ruth meet, because Dorothea is measuring Ruth's skull as part of the phrenology research otherwise their two social castes would never have crossed.

There are several running side stories as the narrative goes back and forth making a true page turner as you never really know what is going to happen next. Each character is flawed and yet somehow likeable, and I really appreciated the nuances of the era that really set the tone throughout this novel that is a borderline horror story. The author has a wonderful knack for the historical suspense and I am looking forward to what flows next from her pen!

I turned off commenting long ago on the blog but I welcome comments at the Facebook page here.

May 13, 2019

Templar Silks by Elizabeth Chadwick

Monday, May 13, 2019

Templar Silks by Elizabeth Chadwick
Sourcebooks Landmark, June 4 2019 USA edition
Historical Fiction, Medieval
Review copy via NetGalley

A new historical fiction masterpiece from highly acclaimed, New York Times bestselling, Elizabeth Chadwick!
England, 1219. Lying on his deathbed, William Marshal, England’s greatest knight, realizes it is time to fulfill his vow to the Templars and become a monk of their order for eternity.
As he waits for his sacred burial shrouds to return, he looks back upon his long-ago pilgrimage with his brother Ancel, and the sacred mission entrusted to them—to bear the cloak of their dead young lord to Jerusalem and lay it on Christ’s tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The third story in a tale of deadly politics, devious scheming, and the lusts of powerful men and women at rule, Templar Silks is the tale of one man attempting to uphold his honor and his life to become England’s greatest knight.

Read my reviews of Elizabeth Chadwick's other works here. An author guest blog is also available here and another here and here.

The Winter Crown
The Summer Queen
Lords of The White Castle
Shadows and Strongholds
A Place Beyond Courage
To Defy A King
The Scarlet Lion
The Greatest Knight

As you can tell from the list of links here Elizabeth Chadwick is a favorite author, and I have read at least one more that I never reviewed here which means this is about the tenth Chadwick novel that I have read. The author has a reputation for meticulous details and an obvious passion about what she writes. A favorite character, William Marshal, is featured in several of her other historical novels and the author has created quite a following for Marshal himself, so this one should be a no-brainer.

Unfortunately for me this is not one of my favorites from the author as it truly focuses on a limited scope of Marshal's pilgrimage to Jerusalem which is something she had not been able to fit into the other novels - which would have been specifically about England and the troubles of King Henry and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine.

This novel is much more of a character study of William Marshal and his immediate relations who were with him on the journey to Jerusalem and who he met there. I found it slow going and was not very interested in William's love affair with a powerful man's mistress but found myself wishing for more direction towards his brother Ancel who truly seemed to be the humble hero in this telling. I am very aware I am in the minority of Elizabeth Chadwick followers and I will still be eager to read the rest of Chadwick's work, this one just was not a favorite for me. I prefer her writing to be more on the saga-like historicals which were broader storylines on a particular medieval time period with multiple warring families and lots of court intrigues and arranged political marriages. This novel did not interest me in particular so much that I even skimmed some pages of the very descriptive and detailed thoughts of William Marshal as he struggled between who to trust along his journey.

I turned off commenting long ago on the blog but I welcome comments at the Facebook page here.