When Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. Read more...
When Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. But pregnant and widowed just weeks after their wedding, with her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie has only her late husband's awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure--a silent companion--that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself. The residents of the estate are terrified of the figure, but Elsie tries to shrug this off as simple superstition--that is, until she notices the figure's eyes following her. A Victorian ghost story that evokes a most unsettling kind of fear, The Silent Companions is a tale that creeps its way through the consciousness in ways you least expect--much like the companions themselves. "If The Silent Companions lands on your night table, don't plan on leaving your bed anytime soon." --Lyndsay Faye, bestselling author of Jane Steele
Dolls and dark corners
The chill of The Silent Companions sneaks up on you and then settles in like a gray mist on a British moor. Which is no doubt intentional, since Laura Purcell’s third novel follows solidly in the Gothic literary tradition. It’s an unnerving read of a woman’s unraveling.
It’s 1865, and Elsie Bainbridge is en route to her new husband’s estate, The Bridge, in rural England. But it’s not a happy journey: Rupert Bainbridge has suddenly died there, and she’s traveling as a widow, not a bride, with only his cousin Sarah at her side. She’s also pregnant.
When Elsie arrives at The Bridge, things go from bad to worse. The housekeeper is borderline hostile, the servants are frightened of strange things that happen in the nursery, and mysterious 17th-century wooden figures are found in a locked room. These “silent companions” are a link to a Bainbridge ancestor, and Elsie starts to suspect they have a sinister purpose. She begins to believe that Rupert’s death was no accident—are she and her baby the next target?
Readers know more than Elsie does: From page one, her more modern story is intercut with both scenes from the 1630s, when the silent companions joined the household, and chapters from the near future, where a now-mute Elsie is confined to a sanatorium. But plenty of suspense comes from waiting to discover when and how the boom will fall.
Purcell ably summons a pervasive sense of doom and dread, and though few of the story beats will truly surprise genre fans, she conjures some genuinely creative horror elements. The Silent Companions is a shivery treat.