Friday, 8 September 2017

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

review by Maryom

Elsie Bainbridge is being held in a mental asylum, accused of arson and murder. Trauma and smoke damage have rendered her mute, so there's no way she can plead her innocence to her jailers, even if she wanted to revisit the horrific incidents that led to her imprisonment. Then along comes a new, sympathetic doctor whose non-threatening ways and willingness to communicate start to open up Elsie's memories, and so she begins her tale - of an old mansion deep in the country, strange noises at night, mysterious deaths, lifelike wooden figures which seem to move on their own, and a centuries old diary that might hold clues to the horrors which stalk the house ...

This is without doubt one of the creepiest stories I've read - full of tension and steadily increasing horror, it's one to give you goosebumps up the arms, and shivers down the spine. At the heart of it lies the old Bainbridge family home, The Bridge, its rather strange collection of 'silent companions' and events which happened centuries ago.
The house has been crumbling quietly, looked after by the minimum of staff, but the return of newly-married Rupert Bainbridge seems to waken something malevolent there. After his sudden death, his widow Elsie arrives at the house, accompanied by her late husband's penniless cousin Sarah, in a swirl of mist. The nearby small village is tumbledown; the locals hostile and wary, peering from their windows to watch the 'gentry' go past; the house itself neglected and overgrown with ivy. What could be a better setting for a gothic horror tale?

 And things progress with a growing sense of unease. There are tales of skeletons discovered in the grounds, noises are heard at night from the permanently locked attic, the painted 'silent companions', once intended as a talking point for guests, take on a far more sinister aspect, and as Elsie's back story gradually emerges that seems to have been equally full of horrors though of a more human, less supernatural, kind.

For me, it definitely wasn't the sort of book to read at night when everyone else had gone to bed. Within the story there's a feeling of things happening just out of sight, of someone or something creeping up behind Elsie's back, and this began to creep over me while reading. I loved it, but at times I found the mounting tension too much and just wanted to walk away from it, go outside, see the sunshine, or talk to someone, just to get away from the slow relentless build up of horror! A thoroughly excellent read, if you're happy to be spooked!

Maryom's review - 5 stars 
Publisher - Raven (Bloomsbury)
Genre - Adult (but will appeal to teens with a taste for the dark and spooky) gothic horror

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