The Conviction of Cora Burns – October Book of the Month

What makes us who we are? Are our personalities and behaviours unchangably coded in our DNA, or are we products of our environment and the circumstances of our youth? Another question; can you tell a criminal just by looking at her face? Carolyn Kirby tackles these issues and more in our book of the month for October, The Conviction of Cora Burns. Opening with Cora’s release from gaol in October of 1885 – the same gaol where she was abandoned by her mother at three months old – and shifting back and forth through time, The Conviction of Cora Burns is a portrait of life in the lower classes of late 19th century Birmingham.

The book raises questions about the sanctity of memory, as Cora is haunted by traces of a terrible crime even as she struggles to remember the details. She knows she was there but what, if anything, did she do? Is she the perpetrator, or was she simply on the sidelines? There is also the possibility, of course, that doing nothing is in itself a kind of guilt. In Cora, Carolyn Kirby has created a determined and resourceful character who is also filled with a violent and unpredictable rage.

The Conviction of Cora Burns has garnered an enormous amount of review coverage, receiving praise for its characterisation and the painstaking rendering of Victorian Birmingham:

a gripping story, a haunting and original debut and full of period detail.”
NB Magazine

“Kirby melds a unique and gripping historical thriller and a compelling protagonist with realistic period detail of Victorian Birmingham to produce a story which owes more than a little to the Dickensian tradition of using fiction as a cover to present otherwise what, in the period, would be seen as controversial social reporting.”
Crime Review

“The writing is excellent, and the mix of science, photography, unknown family all set in the Victorian era made this such an interesting read.”
Life & Tea

“Even at its darkest it is beautifully written, the research is meticulous and the complex Cora makes a flawed but affecting heroine. A great historical novel with bite.”
Sunday Mirror

“This brilliant book is a masterful piece of literature that will pull you in from the very beginning with its intelligent discourse about personality and behaviour.”
Historical Novel Society

“A spellbinding read.”
Meath Chronicle

“With its complex anti-heroine and its dark, twisting plot, The Conviction of Cora Burns is haunted by transgenerational trauma, twins and doubles and the painful legacies of maternal sacrifice. All at once, it’s a historical thriller, a kind of ghost story and a sneakily political treatise on the need for a more equitable society.”
Shelf Awareness

“This richly woven Gothic tale is an atmospheric treat.”
Heat Magazine

“This atmospheric and compassionate novel will tug at your heart strings. Fans of Laura Purcell’s Silent Companions will love it, although I think this novel has more depth.”
NB Magazine

“The Conviction of Cora Burns should make a prize shortlist or two, being a thumpingly good read.”
Shots Mag

“[A] multilayered narrative of grim coincidence, origin mysteries, and severed pairs…the language is atmospheric and perfectly pitched, and the dialogue is spare and evocative. An ambitious effort that…will keep readers riveted.”
Kirkus Reviews

The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby is out 24th October from No Exit Press
(9780857303271, p/b, £8.99)

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