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The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby - eBook only

Dzanc Ebooks

The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby - eBook only

The Conviction of Cora Burns brighter cover.jpg
The Conviction of Cora Burns brighter cover.jpg

The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby - eBook only

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1880s Birmingham, England: A troubled young woman searches for her lost sister and the truth behind a grisly crime in this Victorian thriller in the style of The Essex Serpent and See What I Have Done.

"Kirby writes with skill and gusto." --The Times

Cora Burns has always struggled to control the violence inside of her. Does this temperament come from the mother she never knew, a convict who gave birth to her in jail? Or is Cora a product of her harsh upbringing in the workhouse, where her only light was a girl named Alice Salt, so like Cora that they were almost sisters.

Just released from Birmingham Gaol, Cora sets out to find Alice. But her memories of Alice are hazy, entangled with the memories of a terrible crime: the murder of a little boy in the workhouse. Her sole clue is a bronze medal cut in half, engraved with the word “SALT.”

Cora finds work as a servant in the home of Thomas Jerwood, a gentleman-scientist obsessed with the study of hereditary criminality. Here Cora befriends a young girl, Violet, who seems to be the subject of a living experiment into upbringing and character. But are there two identical girls called Violet? And is Jerwood also secretly studying Cora? As the secrets of her past unravel, Cora must decide if her own scarred nature is an unalterable product of biology or if she has the strength to change.

With the power and intrigue of Laura Purcell’s The Silent Companions and Sarah Schmidt’s See What I Have Done, Carolyn Kirby’s debut novel delves into Victorian London’s dark underbelly and the question of where we first learn violence: from our scars or from our hearts.


“A gothic feel, with a strong heroine uncovering secrets from her past...A gripping story, a haunting and original debut and full of period detail. Cora is a sympathetic and feisty character.”
NB Magazine

“[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

“Kirby is at her best in depicting Birmingham’s mean streets and in conveying Cora’s inner struggles.”
Publishers Weekly

“A dark Victorian novel about the complexities and motives of a violent young woman, sure to leave you grasping for answers...Carolyn Kirby lays the foundation of this novel brick by brick, building to conclusions that I suspected from the start and to some that were nowhere near what I was expecting....Cora proves to be an inspiring protagonist, stopping at nothing to discover her own truths and to build a better future despite her wild and questionable past.”
Independent Book Review

“Kirby’s superb psychological thriller just about garrotes you in suspense. Is violence a product of nature or nurture? Can we shape who we are, and once shaped, can we ever change? Cora's the daughter of a convict, but the harsh 1865 London streets she grows up in, full of workhouses and murder and a sinister secret experiment offer answers to that question that you never see coming. Honestly, I kept all the lights on through this provocative, smart debut.”
—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You

The Conviction of Cora Burns is an astonishing debut novelsumptuous in detail, original in structure, and, page by page, utterly compelling. Carolyn Kirby is a born storytellera Charles Dickens for the 21st centuryand her evocation of of the sources of evil, whether in us or in society, as shrewd and telling as her understanding of the mystery and depths of the human heart.”
—Jay Neugeboren, author of Imagining Robert and The Stolen Jew

“Carolyn Kirby’s unforgettable debut is a painstaking, kaleidoscopic, deeply unsettling, deeply thrilling, expansive, provocatively masterful novel that will transport you to London of the roaring Victorian 1880s and poke and prod your mind and heart with the branding iron that sears every sentence from beginning to unspeakable end.”
—Charles Blackstone, author of Vintage Attraction

“With a sharp historical eye to the class conflicts, workhouse horrors, and sexual mores of Victorian England, Carolyn Kirby deftly renders the precarious lives of unmarried working-class mothers and the far-reaching consequences of moral choices driven by desperation. A poignant reflection on the possibility of personal redemption and the potential, within each person and society, to recognize and cherish human dignity and shed the injustices of the past.”
—Alice Hatcher, author of The Wonder That Was Ours


Originally from the northeast of England, CAROLYN KIRBY studied history at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, before working in public housing and then as a teacher of English as a foreign language. Her novel The Conviction of Cora Burns, begun in 2013 during a writing course at Faber Academy in London, won the inaugural Bluepencilagency Award and was a runner-up for the DGA First Novel Prize and the Mslexia Novel Competition. Carolyn has two grown daughters and lives with her husband in rural Oxfordshire.