The Silent Companions
Laura Purcell Raven Books £12.99
It’s 1865 and pregnant Elsie Bainbridge, newly wed and already widowed, retires to her late husband’s run-down estate for her confinement. There she enters a nightmare world involving painted wooden Dutch figures – the titular ‘silent companions’ – that mysteriously come alive. All the classic ingredients of gothic fiction are present in this debut novel: the isolated country house; suspicious villagers; disagreeable servants; a locked room in the attic; a ‘found’ secret diary detailing events from 1635. Unfortunately, this atmospheric homage to the genre too often resorts to cliche and culminates in a denouement that stretches one’s willingness to suspend disbelief.