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Comics & Graphic Novels Literary

Agnes, Murderess

by (author) Sarah Leavitt

Freehand Books
Initial publish date
Sep 2019
Literary, Historical Fiction, Crime & Mystery
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2019
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2019
    List Price

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Winner of the Vine Award for Canadian Jewish Literature

Agnes, Murderess is a graphic novel inspired by the bloody legend of Agnes McVee, a roadhouse owner, madam and serial killer in the Cariboo region of British Columbia in the late nineteenth century. Fascinated by this legend--which originated in a 1970s guide to buried treasure in BC, and has never been verified--Sarah Leavitt has imagined an entirely new story for the mysterious Agnes: her immigration to Canada from an isolated Scottish Island; her complex entanglement with shiny things; and her terrifying grandmother, Gormul, who haunts Agnes's dreams and waking life.

Leavitt puts a decidedly queer twist on the story, moving from women's passionate friendships in the gardens of St John's Wood to female relationships in the Canadian wild. At the same time, the book grapples with the dangerous pre-conceived notions held by settlers that the country was a "new world," free of ghosts and history. Agnes, Murderess presents a tortured, complicated woman struggling to escape her past. It is a spine-chilling tale of ghosts and murder, friendship and betrayal, love and greed, fate and choice.

About the author

Sarah Leavitt has earned international acclaim as a writer and cartoonist. Her first book, Tangles: A story about Alzheimer's, my mother, and me, was published in Canada, the US, UK, Germany, France and Korea and a feature-length animation is in development. In 2010, it became the first work of graphic literature to be a finalist for the Writers' Trust Non-Fiction Prize. It was also a Globe and Mail Top 100 Book of 2010, the winner of the 2011 CBC Bookie Award for Best Comic or Graphic Novel, a finalist for the 2011 Alberta Readers' Choice Award and a finalist for the 2011 Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize. Her prose and comics have appeared in anthologies, magazines and newspapers in Canada, the US and the UK. Sarah teaches comics classes in the Creative Writing Program at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

Sarah Leavitt's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"[A] delightful feminist gothic horror graphic novel." -- Vancouver Sun

"I could not put Agnes, Murderess down. Gothic horror meets feminist history in this deceptively spare novel of a 19th century Scottish waif turned serial killer. Along the way, the characters and the reader alike are haunted by considerations of power stolen away and seized back, colonialism, loneliness, desire, obsession, friendship, and even love." -- Annabel Lyon

"In spare line art as stark as antique woodcuts, Sarah Leavitt's Agnes, Murderess achieves the difficult goal of making historical fiction relatable, relevant, and alive. Agnes, who may or may not have been an actual mass murderer in 19th-century frontier Canada, is a sympathetic anti-hero. The story's theme of the New World as a wilderness free of old ghosts is thoughtful and provocative, and Leavitt surveys the fine line separating supernatural horrors from the horrors we're capable of all by ourselves. Sometimes the monsters chase us; other times, we are the monsters." -- Brian Fies

"Agnes, Murderess haunted me in a way only brilliant stories can do. What a rich portrait of a mysterious and exceptional woman! Sarah Leavitt's drawings are so delicate, fragile and beautiful that I feel for every single character in this book. I want to get them warm clothes and a bowl of soup. I wished them everlasting happiness and peace but I am old enough to know that this is a childish wish that doesn't make a great and epic tale like Agnes, Murderess." -- Anna Haifisch

"Once again, Sarah Leavitt wields a devastating line in both picture and prose. Agnes, Murderess is a chilling, deeply moving account of loneliness and the search for peace?of evil in its plainest garb: the absense of love." -- Alissa York, author of The Naturalist

"Amazing use of images and a great, well-rounded story. Thoroughly impressive." -- Katherena Vermette, author of A Girl Called Echo

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