Twelve minutes to midnight by Christopher Edge, Published by Nosy Crow 2012.
“In 1899, thirteen year old orphan Penelope Tredwell is the author, editor and sole proprietor of London’s most popular magazine, The Penny Dreadful, concealing her true identity behind the pseudonym Montgomery Flinch. But when she receives a strange letter addressed to Flinch, Penelope finds herself drawn into a real-life adventure as thrilling as any she pens for the pages of her magazine.
Every night at precisely twelve minutes to midnight, the inmates of Bedlam, London’s notorious madhouse, all begin feverishly writing – incoherent ramblings that Penelope quickly realises are in fact terrifying visions of the new century to come. But what is causing this strange phenomenon? Together with her trusted companion, printer’s apprentice Alfie, Penelope pits her sharp wits against this unearthly problem – and finds herself plunging into danger.
Pacy and tightly-plotted, this is an exuberant and entertaining adventure story set in an appealingly foggy and sinister Victorian London. This adventure packed with exciting twists and turns will appeal to confident readers, and fans of Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart series.”
The Booktrust also listed Penny as one of their “inspirational heroines” in between Matilda (Roald Dahl) and Coraline (Neil Gaiman).
From the author (talking about one of his sources of inspiration):
“However, instead of a detective like Sherlock Holmes investigating the mystery, I wanted a different kind of hero or should I say heroine. Penelope Tredwell is the thirteen-year-old owner of The Penny Dreadful magazine whose sinister tales grip Victorian Britain, even though nobody knows that she’s the real author. Sniffing out a new story, Penny plunges into the heart of the mystery and proves herself to be just as courageous, quick-witted and resourceful as the famous resident of 221B Baker Street himself. In the course of her adventure, she even meets Sherlock Holmes’s creator – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who has a small part to play in helping her to solve the mystery.”
Read the full author blog entry from the UK Bookbuzz website here:
From the publisher (Nosy Crow):
“Montgomery Flinch gripped the sides of the reading lectern, his knuckles whitening as he stared out into the darkness of the auditorium. His bristling eyebrows arched and the gleam of his dark eyes seemed to dart across the faces of each audience member in turn. A mesmerised silence hung over the stage; it was as if the theatre itself was holding its breath as it waited for the conclusion to his latest spine-chilling tale. The expectant hush seemed to deepen as Flinch finally began to speak…”
And so the story begins…If you want to read more of the first chapter, you can download it from the Nosy Crow website:
What do I think about this book?:
I have been in the fortunate position of reading some really great fiction set in Victorian London lately. Firstly, Constable & Toop by the amazing Gareth P. Jones, Fire Spell by Laura Amy Schlitz (see my previous blog discussion on each of these titles below), A very unusual pursuit by Catherine Jenkins (the first in a new trilogy “City of orphans” and one I will discuss just prior to it’s publication) and now this splendid title. This is another book published by Nosy Crow, a relatively new UK children’s publisher. Every book or series that I have bought and read from their range has been a great hit with my students. This would appeal to age 10+ or year 6 -8 readers, both girls and boys, due to the strength of the main character.