By Emily Organ.
I decided not to bother with the next book in Cogman’s Library series, and instead decided to try Limelight. It, too, will be joining a currently growing list of books in series I won’t be reading any further.
When the allegedly dead actress, Lizzie Dixie, is found murdered, Scotland Yard inexplicably turns to Penny Green, her friend, and an ex-reporter from the Morning Express. She’s none too happy with them because they’re the ones who got her sacked for being right about a previous case, and she’s not going to help them till she’s back in her old job. Well, as luck would have it, the nice Inspector Blakely is able to pull some strings, although when she returns to the paper, the editor, Mr Sherman, tell her that the obnoxious Edgar Fish will take all the credit for the story even if Green does all the work.
Dixie was supposed to have drowned in the Princess Alice disaster of 1878, but one of the other victims was mistaken for her, thus enabling her to escape from her old life with the awful Joseph Taylor.
It seems, for a time, that there’s a Westminster connection because Dixie was also a courtesan, but that turns out to be a dead end.
Meanwhile, someone has been sending Green messages warning her to keep her nose out of the business, and there’s a mysterious, shadowy young man as well, who was seen in the vicinity of Highgate cemetery, where Dixie was murdered.
When Green isn’t busy being the Lois Lane of 19th-century London, she also has some involvement with the West London Women’s Society, which wants her to publish an article about their activities in the Morning Express. It’s through this connection that Green cracks the case, the murderer is revealed, and so is the murderer’s special guest assistant.
The book didn’t start well in that it felt clunky and staccato, but Organ managed to pull out of that nosedive in short order.
It was never made clear why Scotland Yard would approach Green for assistance, and as a means of getting her involved in the case, this was weak. Similarly, when she encountered the mysterious young man in the hotel, she seemed to think that Inspector Cullen should pursue the man on the basis that he could be someone of interest. Later, she’s certain that the young man must’ve been hired by someone in Westminster, although she has no evidence for it.
Although Limelight never quite gets that far, Green is very close to being a huffy female character who thinks that if she says, “I think I saw someone who looks like someone” (and looks huffy), everyone will drop everything immediately because her vague suspicions are the most important thing ever; and possibly even more important than that.
Most of the male characters (Joseph Taylor, Edgar Fish, Inspector Cullen, Mr Sherman, various MPs) are a bunch of asses who need a good smack or so, apart from the agreeable James Blakely who, it turns out, has a potential Mrs Blakely in the wings. There’s more than a little Guardian reader in this narrative. In fact, it might’ve been better if Green had been a reporter for the Manchester Guardian.
This might also have worked better if it was, say, more like the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency of Victorian London, because as I said above, the reason for Green’s incorporation into the was paper thin and ultimately made no difference.
So, that’s enough of this series. Once again, I note that I’m not really the target demographic.