Across Britain readers are awaiting the next edition of The Penny Dreadful with breathless anticipation, for it will mark the return of Montgomery Flinch – author of the macabre and mysterious tales that made The Penny Dreadful a must-have publication with commoners and gentry alike.
However, there is a problem, Penelope Treadwell proprietor of The Penny Dreadful and the hand holding the pen of Montgomery Flinch has not had a decently lurid idea for months.
When she creates The Black Crow – a gentleman thief based on an idea from an anonymous member of the public, Montgomery Finch attracts the attention of the Metropolitan Police, for suspicions of treasonous crimes. But the stories are made up, nothing more than fantasies created to amuse and astonish the public… or are they?
Where to begin about the Black Crow Conspiracy? I was lucky enough to receive a pre-publication version of the story (before the proofs came out) last year and devoured the story over two days.
There are dastardly deeds committed by mysterious caped and cowled figures, a plucky heroine with a tragic backstory, a failed actor standing in as a best-selling author and rum foreign-types perverting science for nefarious purposes – what is not to like?
Dotted throughout the story are actual historical figures from Arthur Conan Doyle to Wilhelm Röntgen and Marie Curie, even members of the royal family make an appearance.
What I thought was initially merely an enjoyable crime/mystery romp with supernatural overtones turned into a realpolitik thriller for young readers involving a desperate race against time to unmask the masterminds behind a conspiracy focused on regime-change in the United Kingdom and a very real threat against world peace.
Penelope is a smashing heroine – intelligent, resourceful and plucky enough not to rely on her lawyer and assistant to get things done. Monty Maples – the actor that plays the public face of Montgomery Flinch is an enjoyable comedic and cowardly foil to Penny’s serious heroine.
It is an enjoyable tale, rich in mystery, humour and the dark powers of science!
If you don’t believe me give the first chapter a try!