Penhallow by Georgette Heyer was first published in 1942. I’ve read almost all of her crime novels and so far this is the one which I’ve liked least.
At one point I thought that it was a complete departure from contemporary crime to one of historic crime fiction, because the setting is really a 19th century one. It mentions at the beginning that the master of the Penhallow estate won’t have electricity in the house and so it’s all candles and oil lamps, servants and stables which gives it an ancient ambience. So it comes as a bit of a shock when a character gets into his car to go into town.
Penhallow, the master rules his estate and family with tyranny and there are almost 300 pages of showing how ghastly he is to everyone, making all the characters, family and servants alike into suspects when his inevitable murder takes place.
Call me old fashioned but I like my murder victims to be done to death quickly, preferrably before I even know who they are, so for me this one dragged along and there wasn’t an awful lot of witty repartee, which I’ve come to expect from Georgette Heyer.
I struggled on to the grim end, then wondered why I had bothered. I read recently in Martin Edward’s book The Golden Age of Murder that Georgette Heyer’s husband had plotted her crime books for her so possibly he didn’t do this one, there’s definitely something sadly lacking compared with the other ones I’ve read – despite it being about double the page count of the others.