Dorothea Truelove is a wealthy young woman doing charitable work at fictional Oakgate Prison in England. In the prison, she meets sixteen-year-old Ruth Butterham, a seamstress accused of murder who claims that it was her skill with needle and thread that caused the deaths. Dorothea determines to test her theories of phrenology (a nineteenth century theory that the shape of a person’s skull determines an individual’s psychological attributes), and she is drawn into the mystery of whether there is a supernatural force at work.
Glanceabook: “An intriguing storyline keeps the reader interested throughout, and the voices of the two main characters feel authentic. The unconventional ending leaves some things unexplained, and it’s up to the reader to make the connections.”
Crime Review: “This thought-provoking, beautifully woven and blood-chilling story will keep the reader hooked with the twists and turns of back stories and events. With a genuine feel for its setting, it is a must for lovers of historical or gothic horror.”
Guardian: “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.”
“That’s why Ma took in piecework and flowering from Mrs Metyard: to keep us afloat. Pa always used that term, afloat. And it seemed to me Pa did float – he kept his head above the water and painted his pictures. Beneath was Ma, kicking through dirt and reeds.”
“At what point do we cease to be merciful, and become fools?”