The Poison Thread

Laura Purcell

Penguin Books

Dorothea Truelove is a young, beautiful and rich society woman, living a life of ease with her widowed father. Out of a strong Catholic sense of duty she works as a prison visitor to the new model Oakgate Prison where she practices her fascination with phrenology upon the female inmates. One day she visits a new prisoner, teenage seamstress Ruth Butterham, jailed for murder. On the face of it, Ruth is a cowed and beaten young woman, but Dorothea soon sees there’s much more to her than she appears.

. . . a deep and dark tale that will leave the reader guessing until the end.

Dorothea coaxes from Ruth the heartbreaking story of her life leading up to jail, especially the torture she suffered at the hands of her employer, the deranged couturier, Mrs. Metyard. Ruth claims her needle and thread gives her the power to kill, that through it she murdered Mrs. Metyard and her daughter Kate. Dorothea thinks it so surreal a claim and believes cannot possibly be true in the rational world of Victorian science. As Ruth’s trial approaches Dorothea decides to investigate Ruth’s circumstances and finds disturbing parallels with her own life. The forthcoming marriage her father arranged to Sir Thomas Biggleswade takes on a deeper significance. Is her father truly as benign as he seems? Can Dorothea untangle the threads of her own and Ruth’s lives and make sense of the pattern of innocence and culpability before Ruth hangs for murders she may not have committed?

The Poison Thread is a rich and complex story in the finest Gothic horror tradition. Laura Purcell has created a deep and dark tale that will leave the reader guessing until the end.