Penhallow by Georgette Heyer

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.

8 thoughts on “Penhallow by Georgette Heyer

  1. I really dislike this one as well. She apparently wanted to be taken seriously as a writer – this might have been one of her attempts to write something different.

    • Lisa,
      She should have stuck to what she was good at. I don’t know why she didn’t write something around WW2 experiences, as so many other writers did successfully, especially as it was published in 1942. Maybe she thought people would want something completely different from reality at that time.

    • Anbolyn,
      I would always have wondered if it got better and turned into something I really enjoyed, as has happened with quite a few books. It’s grim though when it only gets even worse!

  2. That is good information to have. I read her books (some of them) when I was younger and I want to return to them, but I will remember that this was a lesser one.

    • tracybham,
      I remember reading in a blog that Why Shoot a Butler is one to avoid too, I thought that strange as I’ve really liked around 6 of them, but I can believe it now.

  3. I’ve only read one of Heyer’s crime novels so far (Envious Casca) but I do want to read more. I won’t be in any hurry to pick up this particular book, though, especially as I still have so many of the romances left to read as well. I’m in the middle of April Lady at the moment and enjoying it, but I don’t think it’s going to be one of my favourites.

    • Helen,
      Envious Casca is one which I haven’t read. I’m pretty sure I have April Lady but haven’t read it yet. I suppose it’s unfair to expect every book of hers to be really enjoyable especially when you consider how many she wrote.

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