Friday, 28 April 2017

Book Review - Limelight by Emily Organ

I have been a fan of Emily's writing since I read Runaway Girl so I was thrilled to win a copy of her latest on Facebook. There was a moment of trepidation when I worried that I wouldn't like it as much as the Runaway Girl Series but I shouldn't have worried. I loved it and was totally captivated by the story and the characters.

I was intrigued by the blurb: London 1883. Actress Lizzie Dixie drowned in the River Thames. So how was she murdered five years later in Highgate Cemetery? Intrepid Fleet Street reporter Penny Green was a friend of Lizzie's and Scotland Yard needs her help. Does Penny unwittingly hold clues to Lizzie's mysterious death? Penny must work with Inspector James Blakely to investigate the worlds of theatre, showmen and politicians to uncover the truth.
Well what's not to love there? A good old fashioned whodunit set in Victorian London with a female protagonist to boot. I was sold. But this is much more than a whodunit. Emily Organ skilfully weaves her way through Victorian London, populating her story with wonderful characters who I really cared about. Her descriptions of the places were so detailed and well researched that I instantly felt myself there, wiping the smut from my glasses along with Penny. Sights, sounds and smells are all evoked to paint a kaleidoscopic picture of Victorian London. The descriptions of the corsets made me smile - how did women function all trussed up like that?

We are immersed in a variety of different worlds, from theatre to circus to politics to the police force and of course journalism. Each world is made real through the inclusion of small yet telling details. For example, as the world of journalism begins to modernise Miss Welton, the editor's secretary, is given a typewriter which she stumbles to use. Strange to think that over the next few decades this machine would revolutionise the workplace, especially for women. Emily Organ is so adept at adding these tiny details which bring the whole scene to life. I shouldn't have been surprised by this as she does it so well in the Runaway Girl Series too.

For me a great story stands or falls on its characters. If I don't feel some emotional investment in them then I struggle to enjoy a book fully. Thankfully there are enough rich, rounded characters here to keep even the pickiest reader happy. I adored Penny's landlady Mrs Garnett waging her war against bicycles in the hallway and unsuitable gentlemen callers; Edgar Fish, a rival journalist with a shockingly paternalistic view of women provided some lovely comic moments; and I was bowled over by the handsome Inspector James Blakely, I so hope he returns in the next book! But the stand out character is of course Penny Green, a modern woman trapped in Victorian corsets. I loved her feistiness, her determination and her bravery. She's a true heroine and keeps the story moving with her investigative skill, thirst for a decent story and dogged determination.

I am so glad that Limelight is only the first of a series starring Penny Green. She is too good a character to lose after only one story and I for one am waiting with baited breath for the next instalment. 

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