Cover Image: The Poison Thread

The Poison Thread

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Member Reviews

I really enjoyed this story but it was a pretty slow paced book. It didn't necessarily drag, it was just slow and steady. It takes it's time because it knows it's worth it. It was a surprisingly good read for such a slow paced book, IMO. 
If you enjoy Victorian themed books or gothic novels, you'll be a big fan of this one!
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I really enjoyed this book a lot. The characters were clever and engaging, and getting to spend time with them was a treat. I liked the writing too - it was descriptive without ever veering into flowery territory, and I would certainly be interested in reading more work by this author. The cover is great too!
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I am a member of the American Library Association Reading List Award Committee. This title was suggested for the 2020 list. It was not nominated for the award. The complete list of winners and shortlisted titles is at 
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The Poison Thread is gorgeously written and exceptionally well done. It's not your typical mystery/thriller, it's darker and more daring. It's incredibly brave in its refusal to hide from the dark corners of the human mind and emotions. I loved it and just wish it had a better cover in the USA! Very highly recommended.
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I tried getting into this book. What reeled me in was the description of it being a Gothic novel woven with a mystery, however, reading the first few chapters I wasn't really sucked into the story so unfortunately, I didn't go on.
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Laura Purcell's The Poison Thread is a very chilling Victorian era, Dickensian psychological mystery. 

It centers around the story of young seamstress Ruth Butterham, who believes that she has damaged her enemies via the magical power of her stitches. 

Wealthy, intelligent young Dorothea Truelove is obsessed with phrenology, and fascinated by Ruth's case (she's been jailed for murder).

The conclusion is quite unexpected.
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This is the Perfect gothic novel. From the first sentence I could  not put it down . The story alternates between Dorothea a you heiress and Ruth the prisoner Dorothea is studying . Ruth lives a tragic life as a very gifted seamstress who is convicted of murdering her employer . Dorothea is a wealthy young lady interested in the study of phrenology. Her charity work brings her to oakgate Prison where she meets Ruth . She listens to Ruth’s story and learns a few things about her own life that may not be as they seem. . With twist and turns and supernatural elements you question the reality of this book doesn’t let up. Exquisite. Brilliant
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Last year I read and enjoyed Laura Purcell's creeping Gothic horror The Silent Companions and, while I didn't love it, I did enjoy it and I've been looking forward to reading more from this author.  

The Poison Thread follows a similar pattern of alternating perspectives, one character telling their story, another character learning the tragic and horrifying events of the past. The narrative device worked very well here, building tension, intrigue, and mystery. I felt for Ruth, the character telling her story as she waits in prison for her murder trial, and while I didn't love Dorothea (she's a little too naive self-righteous do-gooder for me) I was interested in the events of her life (though, I think, she picked the wrong man).

Characters and place felt real and drew me into the story. I felt for them. I felt like I was there (early Victorian England). I found myself thinking about the story when I wasn't reading it and trying to find extra time to fit in a few more pages. I ended up forgoing an earlier bedtime in order to read just a few more chapters (and given the tiny chapters, it was especially tempting to say "just one more"). Now that I'm finished, I wish I had more of the story left to read. I don't want it to be over.

The story kept twisting and turning, keeping me on my toes, and just when I thought I figured things out, we'd take another turn. There's a supernatural element, but this too is kept in question throughout the story as to whether or not it's truly supernatural or not. This was all done very well.

I like books that give me glimpses into learning about neat things. In this one we get phrenology (not my favorite subject), sewing (I did like this), and historical bits and pieces surrounding life during the early Victorian era from the perspectives of people in different classes of society (loved this).

I don't feel like my review is doing this book justice. I loved it. I can't wait to read it again (with the right reader, this would make a fantastic audiobook), and I can't wait to read Laura Purcell's next book.
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I absolutely loved this book and wish I hadn't waited to long to read it! As a fan of needlework of all kinds, I was immediately absorbed in Ruth's tale of the power in her stitches. The juxtaposition of Ruth and Dora's narratives throughout the story was interesting, and I found it far more entertaining to hear Ruth's story told in the first person in alternating chapters, rather than to hear it as a dialogue between the two characters. The twist of an ending (revealing secrets about both women) was absolutely brilliant --  I would read this again, ten times over!
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Channelling the likes of Alias Grace and The Unseeing, The Poison Thread tells a terrifying tale of confinement and madness. Dorothea Truelove, a perfectly saccharine name for the Victorian charity do-gooder, is a adherent to the study of phrenology. She visits Ruth Butterham, a teenaged seamstress, in Oakgate Prison and begins to suspect there is more to the girl’s story. Told in alternating narratives, the reader learns about Ruth’s misfortunes and Dora’s misguided altruism.

Set in the early Victorian era, Purcell highlights the lack of options within a strict society. Dora is a wealthy daughter, set to inherit a great deal, and has nothing to do with her time but play elite charmer until she meets an equally wealthy beau. She has convinced herself she is helping the neglected by visiting prisoners, but it quickly becomes clear she has ulterior motives.

Ruth is a bright child who takes over her mother’s fine embroidery jobs as the woman loses her sight. With her mother eventually blinded, Ruth is sold into indentured servitude to a dressmaker. She and the other girls are abused and ill-fed, all while working long days in terrible conditions to make glamorous gowns for wealthy ladies.

Despite her efforts, and obvious value as an excellent seamstress, life never seems to give her a break. Then she notices that when she sews in anger or full of vengeful thoughts, some calamity befalls the wearer. She begins to think she has the ability to harm through the stab of her needle.

There is plenty for the Victorian fan to smile about. A pet bird named Wilkie, Scheele’s green arsenical fabric, bizarre madness among the upper classes. There is even a nod to the inimitable and unendurable Miss Clack in The Moonstone:

No sooner did I begin my descent of the staircase then I heard a high laugh tinkle from the drawing room. It shivered up my arms and made me wince. The Pearce woman, here already. .. I was forced to endure the clasp of her hands and a kiss on either cheek. A cloud of jasmine emanated from her skin and made me choke — it was as though I had bitten into a bar of soap. Pg. 140-1

Like The Silent Companions, the novel ends with an odd twist. I actually read the last few pages twice to make sure I knew what was happening. Even now, I’m not entirely sure. It leaves one with a lunching stomach, being on a creaking carnival ride. It’s fun, but you feel a little off-kilter when you’re done.
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I don't know where to start with this one. Sometimes I am successful in trying new to me genres and authors. Sometimes I'm not so successful. Unfortunately, for me, this one is in the latter.

I just don't know what to think with this book. Neither character is reliable. Their stories both have holes in them. I couldn't decide if I wanted to root for them or damn them. Their telling of their stories was a bit sloppy, hard to follow at times. The whole book was choppy and slow moving.

At first, I thought my issue with this book was the Victorian speak. I don't read Victorian books, ever. But after a while, I realized it was just the book itself. It drug. I lost interest. It is in NO way any form of a horror book, that is for sure. And that disappointed me. I had initially picked it up for the horror aspect.

And what is with that ending? I mean, okay karma. But at the same time... who really was at fault? Sometimes endings like this work. In this case, the ending just doesn't work. There is such a huge build up for the ending and then... well, I can't spoil it. It is highly disappointing.

Overall, I just think Victorian books might not just be for me. I think if you typically read these books, you may end up liking it.
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I was immediately caught up in this Victorian Gothic. The two narrative voices are distinct and compelling, and the drama believable - even though it's quite horrific at times. Great good fun, with a grim grim (but earned) ending.
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The Poison Thread is another tour de force by Laura Purcell. Originally released as The Corset this Gothic historical thriller is filled with unexpected twists and turns which keep the reader spellbound.  Charitable socialite and budding phrenologist Dorothea Truelove spends her time visiting the inmates of Oakgate Prison. She is most fascinated by the prison’s newest resident sixteen-year old seamstress Ruth Butterham, awaiting trial for murder. Ruth is convinced that she has the ability to inflict harm supernaturally through her needle and thread. As Ruth’s life story progresses Dorothea is conflicted as to whether or not this could possibly be true and must determine the truth. 

Purcell’s easy writing style and engaging characters make this a must-read for anyone who enjoys Victorian Gothic novels. 

Full disclosure- An ARC of this book was provided via NetGalley in return for this review.
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I really enjoyed reading this book.  The story of Ruth, a poor young girl essentially sold into apprenticeship to a milliner, is told--by Ruth--to a wealthy young woman, Dorothea, who believes it is her duty to visit the inhabitants of Oakgate Prison.  Ruth is in the prison awaiting her day in court; she has been accused of murder, and tells Dorothea that she has killed multiple times--through her talents as a seamstress.  Dorothea knows that cannot be true, but isn't quite sure if Ruth is lying, or insane.  Dorothea seeks to uncover the truth, as well as use the "science" of phrenology to discover whether or not Ruth can be saved--both physically and morally.  As the tale unfolds, the reader discovers that Dorothea has an even greater stake in Ruth's story, and the truth could set them both "free."
I found Ruth to be a fascinating character.  The story begins with Ruth's burgeoning efforts at sewing.  She discovers she is naturally adept and takes on a larger role in helping her mother complete her commissions in order to earn money for their family.  As she continues honing her skill, Ruth begins to suspect her talent may have a more sinister side.  When Ruth's life takes several tragic turns, Ruth uses her skills to exact the only revenge open to her as an abused apprentice to an apparently unhinged milliner.  The reader sees Ruth develop and follows her journey.  All of Ruth's motivations, actions, and decisions feel organic.  
Dorothea is not quite as sympathetic as Ruth, especially at the beginning of the book, when the reader is comparing Ruth's family's struggle to keep food on the table to Dorothea's complaints about inviting people she does not like to her 25th birthday party.  That dichotomy, however, serves to show just how different the two characters lives actually are.  As Dorothea's part of the story unfolds, her language and sense of urgency as she describes the struggles she is facing closely resemble the feelings and thoughts of Ruth.  The reader sees that Dorothea truly believes she is facing grim circumstances.
As the book moves towards its conclusion, facts are slowly hinted at and then revealed that call into question Ruth's beliefs about her powers, and Dorothea's beliefs about the seriousness of her fate.
The plot and pacing of this book was great.  The book got a bit slower in the beginning when Dorothea was the narrator, but that served to show just how different she was from Ruth.  Dorothea came across as a bit spoiled, sheltered, and naive.  By the end of the book, however, that view was definitely challenged.
The book was well-researched and the setting and descriptions served to transport the reader back in time.  From the living conditions of the genteel poor to the daily routine of the apprentices, everything was immersive.  The smells, sights, sounds, and textures were evocative and tangible.
I really could find nothing about this book that I didn't like or that I would change.  I truly enjoyed reading it all the way through to the conclusion.  I would recommend it to anyone how enjoys historical novels, literary fiction, magical realism, and mystery.
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Hello, I will be adding this review to my blog: thegeekishbrunette.wordpress.com, my IG: thegeekishbrunette, and Goodreads: thegeekishbrunette on June 10th, 2019. It will also be added to Amazon and Barnes & Noble on the book's publication date. Links will be provided when the review goes live, thank you.

Title: The Poison Thread
Author: Laura Purcell
Genre: Historical Fiction/Gothic Horror
Publication Date: June 18th, 2019

eARC provided by publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Dorothea's charitable work with the local prison introduces her to a young teen named Ruth who is awaiting trial for murder. Ruth claims she can kill with just a needle and thread. Dorothea's beliefs are shaken with such claims and she must figure out the truth and decide if evil can lurk behind innocence.

I had such high hopes for this book ever since I laid eyes on the cover and read the synopsis. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint! If I hadn't been so busy with what life requires of me I would have read this in one sitting.

Dorothea is an interesting character because she loves studying phrenology and goes to a prison to interview female murderers. I enjoyed her character because she goes against the grain when it comes to societal behavior for women of that era. She thinks for her own and doesn't listen to her father, especially when he says no talk about her work to suitors.

Ruth's story was intriguing and disturbing at the same time. Her life was far from easy and at times when you thought it was getting better a dark cloud comes. I wanted to know more and more about her life as I read each page and felt like Dorothea, questioning everything I had read. Ruth felt so innocent and yet mad but who really knows since all murderers seem innocent at times. I am still trying to grasp my thoughts around the ending!

Dorothea and Ruth each have their own chapters which let you dive into their lives and understand their characters on a deeper level. The plot is always thickening and when you think you know the answer, another plot twist comes out of nowhere and leaves you in shock. The minor characters will have you hating some and loving others. They may be considered minor but add to the plot in such a way that they don't seem minor at all.

The Victorian England setting was great and the details of sicknesses and even phrenology brought more to the story and added a great historical touch. 

Overall, I really loved this dark and disturbing book filled with rich characters and a wonderfully crafted plot. It will have you on your seat and trying to find out the truth for yourself!
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This book was previously published as "The Corset." I'm not sure why the different title here.  Like the author's previous book "The Silent Companions," this is a Victorian gothic with great characters and a foreboding sense from page 1 that bad things are going to happen. Overall the story is pretty good and I didn't dislike it as much as I found it too dark for my taste. I love creepy Victorian stories but this went a little too far in the dark and depressing direction.
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review to go live at link below May 20 2019
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!
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Read it.
I repeat: read it.

This is unputdownable and the kind of story that just takes off and drags you with it. I loved the unreliable narrators, the ambiguous ending. All of it. It's boring to hear someone gush, so all I can tell you is that I adored it and you need to add it to your list right now.
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When describing this book to my husband, I summarized as the story of two women in Victorian England: Ruth, a seamstress who believes she can hurt and kill others through her sewing, and Dorothea, a member of the gentry who visits Ruth in prison, believing that phrenology (the study of the contours of the human skull to describe a person's personality) holds the clues to Ruth's innocence or guilt. It sounds a bit wacky, I'll admit, but the story is so much more complex than that. The question of whether or not Ruth truly can kill others by infusing her creations with her own hatred will have readers guessing throughout the book trying to figure it all out, right up until the final page.  
Ruth, a member of the lower class, grows up a victim of poverty, and without money, her only way to survive is through her sewing. Out of necessity, she enters an "apprenticeship" in a local dress shop, Metyards, only to discover that nothing is what it seems and that her mistress, Mrs. Metyard, is insane. Dorothea meets Ruth after Ruth has been imprisoned for murder, and begrudgingly, Ruth tells Dorothea her story. The horrors of Ruth's story reveal to Dorothea some secrets within her own, seemingly perfect, family life. 
Purcell excels in writing atmospheric horror that is almost suffocating. The issues faced by the heroines are always intersectional- race, sex, and class are all woven into what haunts both women. The Poison Thread is a punch of a novel, and it's a story that is sure to stay on reader's minds long after they've finished.
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I loved Purcell’s  previous book, The Silent Companions, so I was eager to read this book, originally titled The Corset. This is not so much a horror/ghost story as it is a Gothic portrayal of two women from opposite ends of the Victorian social classes. Dorothea is a wealthy young woman committed to doing charity work at Oakgate Prison where she hopes to learn why the female prisoners have committed the crimes they have been accused of.  Ruth is a poor, but incredibly talented seamstress, who is accused of committing terrible crimes.  This book is not always easy to read, Ruth has had a truly horrific life and one can almost understand why she would lash out at the world that has been so cruel to her. The relationship between Dorothea and Ruth is fascinating to watch unfold, as is the supposition of good versus evil. A Victorian Gothic masterpiece
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