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Gothic mystery set in Bath

  • Submitted: 24th January 2021

The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell

A struggling silhouette artist in Victorian Bath seeks out a renowned child spirit medium in order to speak to the dead – and to try and identify their killers..

So, off we go to Bath. I love a gothic novel with overtones of spiritualism and such like. I wanted to know more about the work of an silhouette artist too.

The red atmospheric cover lured me in……and I was transported all the way to Victorian Bath…

BookTrail Travel to the locations in The Shape of Darkness

Gothic mystery set in Bath

Setting: Victorian Bath/sceance rooms, a silhouette artist’s studio

BookTrail Travel to the locations in The Shape of Darkness




A gothic tale to transport you to Victorian Bath.

I loved this atmospheric and gloriously gothic novel set in Bath. Laura Purcell knows how to set up a story and pull the reader into the mystery.

This isn’t the Bath we all know and love however. This one is dark, disease-ridden, the cobbles are slippy and dangerous and the hansom cabs make a daily clatter creating the soundtrack to the day’s events. Our main character here is a silhouette artist. Agnes has a remarkable skill and I was fascinated to learn of her art. However, women in the work place had it hard then. Her situation is made more difficult with the fact that silhouette artists do not have the standing they once did. Photography and daguerreotypes seem to be the latest thing.

Agnes struggles on but then finds the people she draws seem to end up dead. Well, I was totally invested in the entire set up by this point and Agnes speaks in a way which allows you as the reader to get inside her head. I got to know her, feel her fear and, on a reading break, I also found myself in a bookshop, sliding over to the art supplies on one occasion. Yes, I know. That’s powerful reading that is.

Gothic mystery set in Bath

BookTrail Travel to the locations in The Shape of Darkness

The world  Laura Purcell has created gets ever more spooky when an young spiritualist is tasked with contacting the dead clients to see how they died. There are séances and very dark moments to make the hairs on the back of your neck to stand up. Agnes and the young spiritualist, Pearl, have a very interesting relationship and there’s a lot to discover about just how important spiritualism was back then. This is the dawn of new beliefs and new technological discoveries and the mix of the two was truly spellbinding.

As I said, I applauded at the end with the deliciously dark twist. The entire reading experience a treat and this is a setting and a story that really drew me in and kept me entranced.


Postcard details:  Access The BookTrail’s Map of Locations and travel guide here

More books set in Bath here

More books set in the art world here


BookTrail Boarding Pass: The Shape of Darkness

Twitter:      @spookypurcell              Web: Laura Purcell



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