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Review: The Crimson Inkwell by Kenneth A. Baldwin

The Crimson Inkwell

Kenneth A Baldwin

I didn’t believe in magic. Before he died, my father taught me the world was solid. Reporting was more like science, anyway. Hard facts. Logical inferences. Then again, I wasn’t exactly an award-winning reporter so what did I know about it? But, when Detective Edward Thomas told me he had seen a phantom, something woke up inside of me…more.

My Rating:

Magical gifts may seem like good fortune, but the repercussions and the costs might not be all they cracked up to be. This is the lesson in The Crimson Inkwell by Ken Baldwin.

Luella Winthrop is a young woman in Victorian era London, determined to make something of herself as a renowned journalist. Writing under a male pen name for a small paper owned by her much older fiancé, her critics aren’t being kind in helping her to succeed. Baldwin paints the atmosphere, the grime of city life and the middle class struggle of the time, with wonder. But he also, thankfully, makes Luella a woman worth championing, a woman who can stand on her own. Even better, the supporting men are equally as deftly handled.

Edward Thomas, a young constable who has had a recent encounter with a ghostly apparition, is written as unshakable in his mind but bendable on societal matters. This paints him as a forward thinking male of the times, and instantly admirable. Meanwhile, the charming but suspicious carnival magician, Bram is expertly woven by Baldwin to remain a mystery and keep the readers in a sense of mistrust. Because of this, the romantic storyline is superb and not overly sappy. But this novel could have used an editorial hand with the internal thoughts and qualms of our protagonist Luella. Often a paragraph expresses the same thing in different ways, making it slightly tedious to read instead of the usual perfect pace that author Ken Baldwin otherwise does well to set.

The Crimson Inkwell is lovable for all the right reasons and though a very abrupt end has the reader shot like a human cannonball from the prose, it delivers a proper dose of feminism and equality without going too far as to be deliberate.

You can upvote the book at Reedsy Discovery.

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