Twelve Minutes to Midnight
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This issue's cover illustration by David Wyatt is from C J Busby's Cauldron Spells (978 1 8487 7085 0, £5.99 pbk). Thanks to Templar Publishing for their help with this March cover.
This is a clever Victorian romp, fast paced and very readable. Penny Tredwell is the owner of the best selling magazine ‘The Penny Dreadful’ in which the stories are written by her but she has to use Montgomery Flinch to front this as a female writer would not be accepted in Victorian England. The twentieth century is just about to arrive when Penny receives word of weird happenings at Bedlam the notorious mental asylum. With Monty she visits the asylum and sees a heavily veiled woman leaving. She also finds the inmates frenetically writing what appears to be nonsense, starting always at twelve minutes to midnight. These writings, it will be clear to the reader, are foretelling the future, such events as 9/11, man into space and so on. The key to these weird events is the veiled lady, Lady Cambridge, and her dream–weaver spider whose venomous liquid causes the asylum inmates to write of the future. Lady Cambridge hopes to cash in on such visions. Eventually writers such as Conan Doyle and Rider Haggard are caught up in the story which is satisfactorily brought to a rather terrifying conclusion.
This is not a book for readers afraid of spiders, as there are some very graphic descriptions of them, large and small but it is a cleverly woven web of events with a feisty heroine, a devoted sidekick in Alfie and a dark and brooding atmosphere. Readers will like trying to identify the events being foretold and the presence of writers like H. G. Wells adds depth and interest to the story.There are more stories about Penny in the pipeline, hopefully for this reviewer, not all about spiders!