Tag Archives: Christopher Edge

The Black Crow Conspiracy by Christopher Edge

The Black Crow Conspiracy: Christopher Edge (Nosy Crow, 2014)The Black Crow Conspiracy is the last in a trilogy of historical-alternate-history-mystery-horror-paranormal tales that started with Twelve Minutes to Midnight, and continued with Shadows of the Silver Screen. Although I commented that the first two books started more slowly (which is not a negative), this is not the case for The Black Crow Conspiracy which starts with glowing phantasms stealing the Crown Jewels within the first few pages.

Two years have passed since Shadows of the Silver Screen, and Penelope Tredwell is now nearly sixteen and suffering writer’s block. Sales of The Penny Dreadful have fallen without Montgomery Flinch’s stories and things are looking bleak until Penny hits on the idea of asking the public for plot ideas, as a competition.

Little does Penny know that the ‘fake confession’ she uses as the basis for a thrilling tale turns out to be real, and before she knows it Montgomery Flinch has been arrested for treason. This starts a thrilling hunt for the real Black Crow, with a backdrop of Edward VII’s coronation, stolen Crown Jewels, missing royalty, hints of the First World War, and state-of-the-art science.

The radiant boys come straight from a 1950’s B-movie. It would give too much away to say how they fit into the plot, but it’s a fun idea used to great effect and tinged with the mild horror you’d expect from a Penelope Tredwell novel.

Our heroine is back to full force after being slightly weakened in Shadows of the Silver Screen, and all the supporting cast are all included, but this is very much Penelope’s story. This is the last of the trilogy, something that you can guess from the last chapter, but there’s plenty of scope for more tales to fill the two years between Shadows and Black Crow¬†if the author chooses to return to this world.

I am very fond of the Twelve Minutes to Midnight trilogy. One of the things that particularly appeals to me is that they are stories with a female protagonist which can appeal to boys and girls equally. There is much written about how boys will only read books about boys, whereas girls will read either, used as an excuse for main characters being predominantly male.

Even if this is true, Penelope Tredwell is a character who transcends stereotypes. She is absolutely female, not a male part with a girl’s name tacked on, and deals with the prejudices of her time because of this. The plots aren’t stereotypical either, and don’t fit a single genre so have wide appeal.

The alternative-history theme is a gateway to discovering more about the times written about, and the use of real-life historical figures gives a starting block for those discoveries. As my daughters are only six and four, these are not books for them to read yet, but I will be keeping ‘my’ copies to pass on and can’t wait to find out what inspiration they will give.

Shadows of the Silver Screen by Christopher Edge

Shadows of the Silver Screen: Christopher Edge (Nosy Crow, 2013)Penelope Tredwell, thirteen year old proprietor and writer for popular Victorian magazine The Penny Dreadful, is back in her second historical-alternate-history-mystery-horror-paranormal tale starting six months after the end of Twelve Minutes to Midnight.

This time she’s pulled into the new and exciting world of the moving picture when the mysterious Mr Gold offers to make a film of one of Montgomery Flinch’s tales of terror.

Shadows of the Silver Screen has a similar pace to Twelve Minutes to Midnight, with a slower set-up for the first half of the book before you start finding out what’s really going on. The novel has a Sherlock Holmes feel to it, except the supernatural is real in this world.

When Penny left Alfie in London to travel with Monty, I was a little sad because I wanted all the characters to be included. I needn’t have worried as we need him in London to track down further clues. I found Penelope not as strong a character as the first novel, but this may have been the effects of ghostly interference. I hope she returns to strength for the third, and I hope there is a third because I am getting quite hooked on Christopher Edge’s alternate version of Victorian England.

A highlight of the novel for me were the historical facts the story inspires you to look up. I hadn’t heard of Louis Le Prince before and yet I would have called myself reasonably aware of film history (apparently not!) I also loved how the story didn’t end where I thought, but still held more thrills. Creepy and gripping, Shadows of the Silver Screen should appeal to anyone with an interest in film, horror, Victorian era, strong female leads and gripping plots.

Twelve Minutes to Midnight by Christopher Edge

Twelve Minutes to Midnight: Christopher Edge (Nosy Crow, 2012) Twelve Minutes to Midnight is the first in a series of books about Penelope Tredwell, thirteen year old proprietor and writer for The Penny Dreadful – a monthly periodical she’s made so successful since her father’s death that it’s now outselling The Strand.

In this tale, Penelope’s alter-ego Montgomery Flinch is requested to help a baffling mystery at Bethlem Royal Hospital – the notorious Bedlam. Fortunately for Penny, she has already hired actor Monty Maples to ‘play’ Montgomery Flinch, as she’s desperate to solve the mystery for her next story. Unfortunately for her, Monty is terrified of almost everything so she doesn’t get to find out as much as she needs from the haunted inhabitants at Bedlam. Every night, at twelve minutes to midnight, every Bedlam patient is compelled to write and write. Words of madness believe the Superintendent but Penelope is sure there is truth in them…

The first 100-or-so pages set up the characters and plot and are relatively slow-paced. Relatively compared to the second half of the book when as soon as we’re introduced to the mysterious widow, Lady Cambridge, things start happening in speedy succession. Lady Cambridge’s creepy research subjects are still making my skin itch a day after finishing this book; and the world of Penny, Alfie, Monty and Mr Wigram are somewhere that the reader will almost certainly feel compelled to revisit.

Twelve Minutes to Midnight is an intriguing mix of historical, alternate history, mystery, horror and paranormal novel with a strong female lead and decent supporting cast. Penny is probably a little too brilliant to be believable, but not in an overly irritating way. I also wasn’t convinced by some elements of the dream-based finale but I am not the target audience!

I have to review this as an adult, because MG and DG are too young. This is aimed for age 9+, and I wondered how many of the historical references would be understood by this age group. However, I have no current direct experience of the age range to know, and even if the historical references pass the reader by the story can still be followed and enjoyed. I just got an extra thrill from the inclusion of Arthur Conan Doyle, H G Wells, Freud et al.! I found this a very enjoyable read and will be getting the sequel because I want to find out more about Christopher Edge’s turn-of-the-century Victorian world. The synopsis for the sequel, Shadows of the Silver Screen, sounds intriguing and it’s published on 10th January so not long to wait!