There are three books in Christopher Edge’s Penny Dreadful series, featuring Penelope Treadwell, the thirteen-year-old proprietor of The Penny Dreadful magazine and author of the chilling Montgomery Flinch stories that have made the magazine so popular. Her uncle, William Wigram, her best friend Alfie, and the somewhat unreliable actor Monty Maples assist Penny in running The Penny Dreadful, but she is definitely the key to its success. The books combine supernatural, mystery and crime, in a late Victorian setting.
The first book in the series is Twelve Minutes to Midnight. The patients at Bedlam are compulsively writing strange stories, prompting the doctor in charge to appeal to The Penny Dreadful for help. There are some wonderfully horrible characters, and the story is well told and exciting. We find out just how sharp and clever Penny is, as well as brave.
In the second book, Shadows of the Silver Screen, Penny tries to help Maples in his acting career (and keep him happy) by agreeing for them to be involved in filming a new talking movie. But, there is more than a movie being filmed and once again Penny is drawn into terrible danger.
The most recent book, and my favourite, is The Black Crow Conspiracy. The plot is crazy and creepy, the villains are dastardly, and the danger is greater than ever. A Montgomery Flinch story is eerily similar to an actual crime, stealing the Crown Jewels. The real theft is part of a much bigger plot to steal the throne itself. Kaiser Wilhelm makes a memorable baddie. I also liked this story as Penny is growing up into a young woman – not an easy transition to make in a series, but handled well here.
I enjoyed all three books in the series, and I love the cover art, it’s striking and bold. The stories are action-packed and a bit scary, and I love the turn-of-the century setting. All round recommended.