When Dorothea's charitable work brings her to Oakgate Prison, she is delighted by the chance to explore her fascination with phrenology. 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 book drips with scenes of gothic horror and quiet menace. There are moments that are truly creepy and intense, heightened by the ambiguity of the two sides to the story ... The language used is beautiful throughout. The different voices of the two women draw you deeply into both their worlds and the shifts in the prose depict the changes in their thoughts and behaviour patterns, as their stories shift and change ... combines class envy with sexual repression and social history. Purcell writes beautifully, drawing the reader into the dark, gothic landscape of Victorian England. A highly recommended read.
There are violent turns of plot in this semi-gothic novel, and less exotic emotional crises too, as Dorothea—caught between the titled suitor her father wants her to marry and the penurious policeman she much prefers—begins to scrutinize her own life, and her own mother’s early death, in keener fashion ... [a] well-wrought chiller.
... a compelling slice of early Victorian gothic ... Vivid and well researched, this book is an evocative portrait of a society that punishes women who dare to contravene social norms – Ruth’s mother has suffered appallingly as a consequence of marrying against her family’s wishes – as well as a splendid mystery with suitably melodramatic flourishes.