The Silent Companions

Laura Purcell

Penguin Books

In 1865, Elsie Bainbridge’s new marriage comes to an end with the sudden death of her husband Rupert. She is pregnant with his child. She arrives at The Bridge, the Bainbridge family’s country estate, intending to inter Rupert in his family vault and spend the rest of her confinement in peace. With only the companionship of Rupert’s cousin Sarah and occasional visits from her brother Jolyon, Elsie tries to come to terms with the household with its stand-offish servants. She has plans to improve the run-down house and the decrepit local village of Fayford, but it seems something has other ideas.

. . . instills a sense of creeping horror . . . 

Rupert’s seventeenth century ancestor Anne Bainbridge bought a number of painted life-size figures called silent companions, intending to amuse King Charles I and his queen during their stay at The Bridge. The realistic-looking images disturb Elsie from the first time she encounters them in a locked garret. Her sense of unease deepens as they turn up in unexpected places around the house, seemingly without human intervention. Who is the young girl depicted in one of the images? And do her eyes really follow Elsie’s movements? Sarah reads Anne Bainbridge’s journals and discovers  the strange events affecting The Bridge are connected to the disastrous royal visit in 1635. Local legend says Anne was a witch, and her daughter Hetta far worse. A series of accidents begin to occur followed by a sudden death. Soon Elsie is fighting for her life and sanity as the silent companions watch and wait.

Laura Purcell’s The Silent Companions gives the reader a skillfully written story that instills a sense of creeping horror from the first page. One for lovers of Gothic horror.