Ghost stories. My absolute favourite. I cannot get enough of them. Contemporary ghost stories? Now that is a different thing as I tend to be a bit old school with regards to my choice of spooky literature. If I was to pick a favourite contemporary writer then I would say it would have to be Susan Hill. Why? Her use of old gothic houses, foggy cobbled streets and convincing characters are fabulous devices to make the blood run cold. Laura Purcell is no stranger to this either, her new book The Silent Companions is simply wonderful.
Firstly, let’s talk about the actual book. The physical entity that is enveloping this wonderful story. The front cover is embellished with cats, birds, candles and children but there is a keyhole cut out the cover which when you open the book it reveals a portrait of one of Laura’s characters. It is a simply lovely design, I was rather taken by it.
Now to speak of what lurks inside and I say lurk because my darlings, this book is full of frights and there is something lurking at every corner and behind every closed door. The book tells the story of Elsie, a widow and an expectant Mother who is sent out to her husband’s country estate, a rather dilapidated and run down home she attempts to live her life as her husband would have wanted. This isn’t just any normal home, inside lies a locked room that holds a two-hundred-year-old diary and a painted wooden figure – a Silent Companion – that looks very much like Elsie herself. What unfolds is both disturbing and eerie. Using devices employed by such writers as Susan Hill and Shirley Jackson, it is a tight story that stays very true to the gothic genre and fills you with dread. I have to say I could have read many more pages of this, I just didn’t want it to end. A wonderful piece of supernatural fiction that will have pride of place in my library.