The Silent Companions
If you’re still on the hunt for a nice and spooky winter tale, then step right up. The Silent Companions opens in 1866 when we first meet Elsie Bainbridge inside an asylum for the insane. She is mute, obviously in shock, and has been accused of arson and murder. The narrative then slips back to a few weeks earlier - when Elsie has recently been married, and subsequently widowed - but left a creepy Jacobean pile by her deceased husband, which is largely shunned by local villagers. As Elsie and her husband’s cousin, Sarah, try to get to grips with the taciturn servants, they must also grapple with the peculiarities of the mansion including its unsettling nurseries and locked garrets. Laura Purcell really ladles on the gothic with creepy children, animal slaughter, witchcraft and sundry curses stirred into the mix, which, yes, all sounds a tad derivative, but she deftly pulls all of the strands together nicely – including sections which dip back into the 17th century to give us a glimpse at some of the house’s previous occupants – building to a wholly satisfying conclusion.