Book Review: Twelve Minutes to Midnight

Twelve Minutes to MidnightBy Awnali Mills

If you’re arachnophobic, don’t read this book.

Just saying.

Twelve Minutes to Midnight by Christopher Edge is the first book in the Penelope Tredwell series (also called the Twelve Minutes to Midnight series on Goodreads).  Penelope is a thirteen year old orphan who has inherited The Penny Dreadful, a magazine (newspaper?) that she is keeping afloat by writing and publishing tales of dread for her 1899 London audience.  Her stories have become so popular that she has to hire an actor to play her pseudonym, Montgomery Flinch, for her adoring fans.  Because who would believe that a thirteen year old girl could possibly write such tales of horror?

The chief physician at Bedlam hospital requests Montgomery Flinch’s help in solving a terrible problem.   He is sure that someone who understands the macabre as well as Flinch is the only one to help him.  At twelve minutes to midnight, all of the insane patients of the hospital rise from their beds and begin scribbling shocking descriptions of wars, famine, titanic ships sinking, mushroom clouds destroying cities, and more. Penelope, sensing new material for her stories, drags the reluctant actor to the hospital, masquerading as his niece.  There she begins untangling a web that involves the aristocracy, the British Museum, Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, and ultimately the fate of England.

What does all that have to do with spiders?  Just trust me on this, m‘kay?

Even though I felt like Edge dumps you right into the center of the story without much in the way of backstory for the situation Penelope finds herself in, I enjoyed the book.  Penelope is smart and resourceful, and there are enough scary descriptions to make this enjoyable for kids who like a little fright with their books without being too obvious about it.  You can tell that Edge was influenced by Poe and Conan Doyle, and I liked that.  Give this book to kids who like mysteries, paranormal, strong heroines, turn-of-the-century England, or scary stories.

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2 Responses to Book Review: Twelve Minutes to Midnight

  1. Sue Van Tassel says:

    Just checked this one out. Thanks for the suggestion. Have you read the Lockwood & Co. ghost/mysteries by Jonathan Stroud? YA I really like those too
    Sue

    Sue Van Tassel
    Children’s Services Supervisor
    Tuckahoe Area Library
    1901 Starling Drive
    Henrico, VA 23229
    Phone: 804-290-9132
    or 804-290-9135

    Email: svantassel@henrico.lib.va.us

    • awnali says:

      I read his Bartimaeus sequence, but not the Lockwood & Co. I did see them when I was looking for scary stories to fill out our reference list, and they looked really good. I’ll have to give them a shot, even though I’m not a big scary stories person. Another good spooky one for Juv Fiction is The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste–it has a lovely strong female lead.

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