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Publisher's Summary

"[An] uncanny Gothic mystery... Satisfying." (The New York Times Book Review)

"A romping read with a deliciously dark conceit at its center... Reminded me of Alias Grace." (Kiran Millwood Hargrave, author of The Deathless Girls

From the author of The Silent Companions, a thrilling Victorian gothic horror story about a young seamstress who claims her needle and thread have the power to kill

Dorothea Truelove is young, wealthy, and beautiful. Ruth Butterham is young, poor, and awaiting trial for murder. 

When Dorothea's charitable work brings her to Oakgate Prison, she is delighted by the chance to explore her fascination with phrenology and test her hypothesis that the shape of a person's skull can cast a light on their darkest crimes. But when she meets one of the prisoners, the teenaged seamstress Ruth, she is faced with another strange idea: that it is possible to kill with a needle and thread - because Ruth attributes her crimes to a supernatural power inherent in her stitches.

The story Ruth has to tell of her deadly creations - of bitterness and betrayal, of death and dresses - will shake Dorothea's belief in rationality, and the power of redemption. Can Ruth be trusted? Is she mad, or a murderer? For fans of Shirley Jackson, The Poison Thread is a spine-tingling, sinister listen about the evil that lurks behind the facade of innocence. 

©2019 Laura Purcell (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"Suspenseful.... This smart and sophisticated historical thriller will appeal to fans of Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith and Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace." (Publishers Weekly)

"A potent, powerful novel: seductive, spellbinding, and - in every sense of the word - haunting. As atmospheric as Sarah Waters, as psychologically astute as Tana French." (A.J. Finn, number one New York Times best-selling author) 

“[The Poison Thread is] a compelling slice of early Victorian gothic.... Vivid and well researched, this book is an evocative portrait of a society that punishes women who dare to contravene social norms...a splendid mystery with suitably melodramatic flourishes.” (The Guardian)

What listeners say about The Poison Thread

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  • Overall
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    4 out of 5 stars

Well told gothic story good narrators

Overall this was an engaging listen although I will say that every main twist that was revealed was foreshadowed so clearly that I knew way before the reveal. Nonetheless the story kept me interested because you wonder how long the two main characters will be in the dark and what the consequences will be. And the story is story of the interesting women trying to find s but if freedom to choose their life path in an era when both upper n lower class women had very limited options. This book especially doesn’t spare the horrors of being a poor female child in this era however. Some of the descriptions of abuse I found difficult to listen to ( I’m also someone who is in her sixth decade and still covers my eyes for gory scenes in movies and tv too). But I didn’t feel any of that was done just for impact it ws an essential part of the story.

15 people found this helpful

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Great listen!!

This book makes the top 5 audible books for me! Great story, terrific narration especially Jayne Entwistle as Ruth. Such a unique story. I’ll be looking for my next Laura Purcell book

9 people found this helpful

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Grim Grim Grim

I cried copiously. This was heart breaking
F LAWLESS NARRATION.
Unrelenting cruelty that only Brits can commit.

7 people found this helpful

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Just WOW!

Wow! Excellent story, excellent narrators. I could not put this one down. Great book club or beach listen.

6 people found this helpful

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Incredibly moving story and performance!

This is my second Laura Purcell book, and I think I have a new author to add to my top 5 favorites. I listened to this right after finishing The Silent Companions, which was a fantastic book and left me hungry for more gothic horror of this quality. I was surprised that I wound up being even more impressed with The Poison Thread. The book is achingly well-written and the performances for Ruth and Dorothea are top-notch. Ruth especially came vividly alive for me and my heart felt for her every moment. There were times when Ruth's performance was so powerful I had to turn off the book and wait until I wasn't driving/at my desk/etc. and could afford to be fully absorbed in her emotions. The story itself will keep you entranced and guessing right up until the last sentence. Some of the scenes were hard to listen to because of how disturbing they were, but there was nothing superfluous or simply there for shock effect, I felt. Everything was essential to the whole of the tale. I would love so much to see this adapted as a film. If you're a fan of Victorian Gothic stories or psychological thrillers, do not miss this one!!

5 people found this helpful

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Blew away my expectations

I'm not going to lie, the beginning is slow. I was thinking that I had yet again run into another drawn out book with no purpose. I almost returned it. However the more the mystery unfolded, the more intrigued I became. I got more and more curious to see where this story was going. The voice actors are great and convey emotions very well. If you decide to read it, give it a few chapters. There's are a lot of very unexpected twists and turns to be had and the ending will leave you breathless.

5 people found this helpful

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One for my best of the year list

Oh, I loved this dark, atmospheric tale ! Tragic, yes, heartbreaking definetely, but it pulled me into the despair and squaller of the lives of the poor in 19th century England. There are some pretty horrific sequences in the narrative, so this may not be a story for sensitive souls. Jayne Entwistle was perfection as Ruth; Elizabeth Knowlton was a bit too whispery as Dorothea.

4 people found this helpful

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Tedious, with Terrible Narration

There are 2 narrators here, Elizabeth Knoweldon for chapters from Dorethea’s perspective, and Jayne Entwistle for chapters from Ruth. Elizabeth adapts this breathy London Society girl affect for her voice, which might be bearable if she only did it for dialogue, but is distracting and tedious when it’s applied throughout the entire narrative. Please just read normally if you don’t know how to carry a story. Jayne, on the other hand, reads like a monotone and immature simpleton, slowly dragging out every syllable in a flat, emotionless voice- because she’s just a poor girl, see? Ruth’s chapters are awful. Unlistenable. I’m DNFing this because I can’t take that voice anymore. It’s so distracting, and if there is any magic in Purcell’s writing, it’s completely buried under this awful narration.
I really enjoyed Purcell’s The Silent Companions (which I read paperback), so I was looking forward to this, but I don’t even think I’ll pick up a paper copy. I’m almost halfway through and there’s just no development here. Purcell keeps dwelling on superficial details, hammering home that one is quirky, and the other has a miserable life and sews. We see no other aspect of their worlds or character. Nobody else is real enough to get much detail. Part of that may be due to first person narrative style, which is tricky, but part of it feels like pretty lazy writing too. This is especially true with Ruth, where one wretched detail after another just gets drawn out unnecessarily. It’s not interesting, and it doesn’t move the story forward, it just feels hamfisted and repetitive. Reviews say there are twist and turns and maybe they all come later, but there just doesn’t feel like enough here to keep me going. The narrators have completely turned me sour on this, so I’ll give it a cool off before I decide for sure, but I’m just not feeling anything for this story.
Seriously some of the worst narration I’ve heard. I’ll give it 2 stars only because I didn’t finish, so an extra point in case it somehow gets better, but it’s a skeptical 2 stars.

3 people found this helpful

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Ending?

Loved the performance & story but, what happened on the last page? I don’t want to mess it up for others but, am I just dense or did others not get the meaning of the handkerchief in Dads hand?

2 people found this helpful

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Excellent!

It was hard to put this book down. Ruth and Dorothea are excellent characters and I really liked the progression of each. Laura Purcell had me think I knew what was really going on but at the end I questioned everything. I would recommend this to anyone with a strong stomach and for a love of morbid drama.

2 people found this helpful

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