The Whispering Muse – Laura Purcell

Published By: Raven Bloomsbury
Pages: 304
Released On: 02/02/2023

Be careful what you wish for… it may just come true.

At The Mercury Theatre in London’s West End, rumours are circulating of a curse. It is said that the lead actress Lilith has made a pact with Melpomene, the tragic muse of Greek mythology, to become the greatest actress to ever grace the stage.

Suspicious of Lilith, the jealous wife of the theatre owner sends dresser Jenny to spy on her, and desperate for the money to help her family, Jenny agrees. What Jenny finds is a woman as astonishing in her performance as she is provocative in nature.

On stage, it’s as though Lilith is possessed by the characters she plays, yet off stage she is as tragic as the Muse who inspires her, and Jenny, sorry for her, befriends the troubled actress. But when strange events begin to take place around the theatre, Jenny wonders if the rumours are true, and fears that when the Muse comes calling for payment, the cost will be too high.

*****

Thanks to NetGalley and Raven Bloomsbury for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

I absolutely adore Laura Purcell. Every subsequent book of hers is better than the one before and I really admire her as an author.

I never knew how much of a fan of gothic fiction I would be, but since she introduced it to me, it’s become one of my favourites. I can’t explain how thrilled I was when I received an early copy of her newest book, I couldn’t stop smiling.

This didn’t have the same tone as her others – at least not at first. It doesn’t have the same pure gothic terror element. It definitely has nods to it don’t get me wrong, but there’s also horror and romance and subterfuge. At first I was a bit wary. I know what I love, and this was taking it in a different direction, but it quickly found its flow and I came to appreciate this new edge.

Everything is so vivid and mesmerising, sometimes in a horrifying way, that you almost become a character yourself, completely absorbed in the story. Everything is described so beautifully – even the horror elements, there’s a beauty about them. I’ve never seen simple things like gas lights or a mirror or bandages described so epically that you might as well be in the room with the characters themselves.

There are a number of characters, main and background, and each one of them is simply wonderful. They’re fabulously flawed, but have their own positives and negatives, that they become so real, so human, so like you and I – just in extraordinary circumstances. Jenny steals every scene she’s in, and considering she’s the main character she’s in most of them. Lilith and Mrs Dyer are equally brilliant; they are fabulous foils for Jenny, on opposite sides of the spectrum with her right in the middle.

It is a very enjoyable book, very entertaining, exceptionally well written with great storytelling. Not necessarily what I was expecting but very much appreciated all the same.

It is gruesome and thrilling and shocking and surprising and terrorising and just everything I’ve come to expect and love from her writing. There’s the main plot (as described in the synopsis), but there are also a handful of other plots weaved through. In the hands of a less experienced writer, this may have been confusing and difficult to follow. But Laura has expertly knitted them together that you don’t feel you could have one without the other.

Having read the acknowledgements, I express my love and care to Laura and I can see how it may have come to influence the book.

I don’t think anyone can do this genre justice as much as Laura Purcell. Her talent is immense and every word just jumps off the page. You’re completely absorbed in everything she writes. She takes your hand and throws you in at the deep end and you’re never completely sure if you’ll be safe. I highly recommend everything she’s written, including this one. I can see myself reading every book she releases as I simply can’t deprive myself of any of her words.

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