Goodreads: Twelve Minutes to Midnight
Series: Twelve Minutes to Midnight #1
Every night at twelve minutes to midnight, the residents of the Bethlehem Royal Hospital rise from their beds to begin scribbling their mad dreams on paper, the walls, even their own skin. In despair of finding a cure, the director turns to bestselling author of the macabre, Montgomery Flinch. What he doesn’t know is that Flinch is actually thirteen-year-old Penelope Tredwell, heiress to the magazine The Penny Dreadful. But Penelope isn’t about to let a case of anonymity stop her from investigating the story of her life. Along with an actor hired to play Flinch, Penelope enters the halls of Bedlam intent on solving a mystery, but soon finds herself entangled in a web more intricate than she could have imagined.
Twelve Minutes to Midnight begins as a pleasantly sinister tale, blending a somewhat dirty Victorian setting with spooky suggestions of supernatural happenings, while never becoming too dark for younger readers. The creepiness is atmospheric, but not downright scary. Add your typical spunky heroine, a girl unafraid of the dark and determined to prove herself in a man’s world, and you have the perfect ingredients for the type of tale that begs to be read at night while you huddle under your blankets. Had not the somewhat confusing ending not marred the work, I would have eagerly begun a new adventure with Penelope as soon as the library system allowed.
The idea of a young girl pursuing fame and fortune under a male pseudonym lured me in from the start. I had high hopes of watching this bright, determined girl use her smarts as well as her charms to make her dream of writing come true. Watching her solve a mystery that had puzzled some of the nation’s greatest minds was only a bonus. It is true that Penelope comes across as bossier and more self-absorbed than I had expected, but the condescension of the people around her made her reactions understandable and I found myself interested in her story despite her flaws.
Unfortunately, halfway through the book Penelope starts to bear the burden of having to carry the entire story. Once the creepiness of the premise begins to wear away, the plot reveals itself as rather thin. And Penelope, though having captured my sympathy mainly due to her struggles, simply does not have enough of a likable character for me to want to read only about her. Still, I persevered, wanting to solve the mystery of the midnight ravings. And that’s when things got really weird.
The story presents itself as a sort of penny dreadful mystery, and, though I have never actually read a penny dreadful, I thought from this description that I could rule out what seems to have been some sort of…weird magic almost. I was willing to accept mass hallucinations and a far-fetched plot to take over the world, but I didn’t expect to journey into a trippy hallucination where all the great authorial minds of England would band together to do something heroic that honestly didn’t seem to make a lot of sense. The story went from an almost historical fiction to what I can only describe as a mess.
The premise of Twelve Minutes to Midnight is a really promising one and Christopher Edge knows how to blend expertly his historical fiction with his creepy mystery. However, the loose plot and the sloppy ending made me lose from my desire to read more of the same in the sequel.