Book I Read: “The Silent Companions” by Laura Purcell
Why I Checked It Out: I won’t lie — that beautiful cover with its gold inlay-enhanced imagery was the first thing that made me consider picking up this book. The eye staring out of the keyhole is just super creepy. I, of course, immediately had to open the cover and see who it was that was staring back at me. And then I figured out it was a Gothic-style horror, complete with haunted manor house, secretive servants and a protagonist with a secret from her past that has come back to haunt her. So, yeah, it had me hooked pretty quickly.
What It’s About: In 1865, Elsie finds herself widowed shortly after her marriage to Rupert Bainbridge. She journeys to Rupert’s family’s country home along with his spinster cousin, Sarah. The once stately manor is in a state of disrepair, with a small staff who lack experience. It turns out it’s hard to find people to work in the house because the local villagers refuse to work there due to the house’s history, which is laced with murder and possible witchcraft. As Elsie explores the house, she stumbles across a very realistic painted wooden figure. It’s not long before more of these figures — known as ‘silent companions’ — begin to appear throughout the house. The book is also interspersed with diary entries from Sarah and Rupert’s 17th-century ancestor Anne, whose story reveals the origins of the companions and offers an explanation for the horror that they seem to bring.
Why I Liked It: This story gripped me right from the start. I loved the dark, dank atmosphere of the Bainbridge’s decaying manor. The less-than-friendly servants and townspeople also added to the scare-factor. The story had a nice flow between Elsie’s story and Anne’s. The layering of tales helped me slowly unwrap the mystery and figure out just what was going on. There are a lot of good horror books out there with less-than-stellar endings. I think it’s hard for authors to end on the same high-note they start out with in horror, but author Laura Purcell managed to pull it off. The ending was surprising and satisfying. I hope Purcell can repeat this success in future books.
Who Will Like It: If you like the kind of book that will inspire you to wrap yourself up in a blanket with a steaming cup of tea in the hopes of staving off the chill that wraps itself around you while you’re reading the book, this book is the one for you. Fans of Shirley Jackson, Susan Hill, Henry James or Daphne du Maurier will want to check this one out.