Laura Purcell | 2019 | 368 pages | Fiction
Dorothea Truelove is a believer in phrenology, the study of human skulls and how they determine personality. She theorizes that the shape of a person’s skull can explain the darkest of crimes. When she gets the chance to examine Ruth Butterham, accused murderess, she is ecstatic. But Ruth’s story proves stranger and darker than Dorothea can comprehend. Ruth is sure she has sewn hatred and death into the garments she created – for her sister, her father, her rival and her employers, all now deceased. Dorothea will have to confront her beliefs about rationality, the power of redemption, and fate as she struggles with Ruth’s guilt and her upcoming date with the gallows.
Based in part upon a true story, The Poison Thread is a fascinating portrayal of two unreliable narrators in a dangerous world. Dorothea and Ruth are united in believing that they can effect change, even as they are trapped and misled by the people around them. (For more information on the background and facts behind The Poison Thread, I also highly recommend Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present by Alison Matthews David.)
Review by: Nora Cascadden, Reference & Technical Services Librarian