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3.05  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,092 Ratings  ·  106 Reviews

"Miss Heyer's characters act and speak with an ease and conviction that is as refreshing as it is rare in the ordinary mystery novel."
-Times Literary Supplement

"The characters are...among the most complex and believable characters she has created."
-Boston Evening Transcript

A family tyrant whose murder has shocking and far-reaching consequences...

Hated for his cruel

Kindle Edition, 457 pages
Published October 1st 2010 by Sourcebooks Landmark (first published 1942)
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This is not a good book, but it's fascinating in its terribleness. As a straight novel, it's not awful, but as a mystery it fails on every level, to the point where it becomes almost a manual on how mysteries should not be written. I read in another review that Heyer wrote this book as a "contract breaker" with her publisher, and it certainly makes sense - when you start reading the book as it was written (as a giant literary middle finger to Heyer's publishers) it becomes almost fun to see how ...more
Penhallow is a novel you would not expect Georgette Heyer to have written. It is significantly darker and less witty than her other novels, both her historical ones and her mysteries, and these differences and the novel's tone caused her to part company with both her UK and US publishers, as well as polarizing the opinions of her readers then and since.

Penhallow is not a standard murder mystery. What we have instead is the story of a damaged, dysfunctional family who suffer under the tyrannical
Jun 10, 2011 Hannah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries, 2011-reads
To arrive at the fatal poisoning of Cornish tyrant Adam Penhallow, you need to read over 275 of 457 pages of this novel. At the same time, you also find out who the murderer actually is. But for this intricately characterized Heyer mystery, Penhallow isn't so much a "whodunnit" as a "whydunnit".

Readers of this book seem to be split in their opinion of it. Many think it is pointless and lacking in classic murder mystery appeal. Others, like myself, find it a unique and interesting twist on the ge
Jun 15, 2011 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

A very different offering from Georgette Heyer. She wrote it as a "contract breaker" and it evidently achieved its purpose. While it contains a romance, it is not a romance novel and anyone picking up this novel on the basis that Heyer is known as a romance novelist would be in for an unpleasant surprise. Heyer also wrote mysteries, but this is not one of them, even though it is about a murder. The murder does not occur until about 2/3 of the way through the novel and the who, why, and how are k
Dec 18, 2015 Marwan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not a typical mystery novel. However it has a lot of emotions in it. (view spoiler) .
It doesn't have the thrill and the twists you seek in the mystery genre, but it has a good story.
Gina Dalfonzo
Aug 08, 2011 Gina Dalfonzo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think "Penhallow" may be the most tragic mystery I've ever read. And the irony is that the murder victim is one of the least appealing, least sympathetic victims I've ever seen. Heyer spends a long, long time building him up as the object of our dislike (he doesn't even die until something like two-thirds of the way through), but just when we're tempted to feel that he deserved what he got, everything in the little world that he dominated starts falling apart. The book is really quite profound ...more
My least favorite Georgette Heyer, the dysfunctional family in this book made me so uncomfortable with their constant sniping, fighting, and what I can only call emotional and mental abuse of the weaker members of the family that I was almost happy when the murder finally occurred nearly three quarters of the way through the book! Unfortunately it then went from bad to worse and ended in such a sad way that I wonder why I ever pick it up to re-read. There is a reason I like books with upbeat end ...more
Apr 08, 2013 Marjorie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Again, a VERY different Georgette Heyer book. I felt like I was reading a play. It all takes place mostly inside, and a few moments outside of a home owned by a tyrant , Adam PenHallow; who owns a stud farm. The house is inhabited by the many and varied members of his family. Reading the book is "hearing" them tear at each other. At the center, like a great spider, is Adam Penhallow unmercifully, ruthlessly, flaying each family member; with words. The whole book is dialogue , cutting, parrying, ...more
Ruth ☆☽
It was well over half-way through before we got to the actual murder. There is far too much descriptive prose and scene-setting for this book to be really interesting. Character development takes up most of the story and there's not much plot evolution, so all-in-all very disappointing for a Georgette Heyer book. Despite all that, I do like her writing and I did finish the book - so although the content was 'unsatisfactory' it just about scrapes somewhere between a two and a half and a three.
Joanna Forbes
Mar 06, 2016 Joanna Forbes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed, audio
This was quite different from other Heyer detective stories. I really enjoyed its structure and the unlikeable nature of pretty much all the characters.
Margaret Sullivan
According to Jane Aiken Hodge's biography of Georgette Heyer, she wrote Penhallow as a contract-breaker for a publisher with which she no longer wished to publish but that had an option for her next mystery. It shows. It's not a mystery so much as a tragedy, and populated with distinctly unpleasant characters. That being said, bad Heyer (or more properly Heyer being bad on purpose) is still better than a lot of writers' best. But still: two stars, as I can't say I liked it exactly, but like a tr ...more
Sep 03, 2015 Nicola rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a winner! But don't read this expecting a murder mystery, never mind what the Goodreads shelves say. This is snoop into the dysfunctional lives of one of the most unpleasant families I've yet seen in print. Having just finished The Unknown Ajax I can certainly see parallels but the nastiness contained in this set of people is a whole other step above.

Never was I so thankful to be born into a family that wasn't full of crazy people!

3 1/2 stars
Sep 07, 2015 Cece rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although Heyer is famous for her Regency romances, those were her bread and butter writing, not the books that she longed to write. What she really wanted to work on was a sweeping, detailed historic "quintogy" of the House of Lancaster. Sadly, only one, "My Lord John" was published. The character list goes on for pages.
Her mysteries, while few in number, are much less formulaic than the romances. Penhallow is reminiscent of Hardy or Bronte in its ever-expanded atmosphere of despair and its lac
The only book by Georgette Heyer that I'd give less than 3 stars, and I believe I've read all her romances and mysteries (all but perhaps a couple histories?). In terms of pure sentence- and paragraph-level mechanics, it's as well written as any, but it's NO FUN!

We spend ages in the company of about as unlikable a group of fictional characters as I've ever been unlucky enough to come across, and even her usually appealing police detectives don't get enough page time to pull it out of the dark. I
Sep 28, 2015 Deborah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most of Georgette Heyer's murder mysteries follow the same basic format: lots of fun characters, somebody nobody much likes is murdered, and a jolly romp to find the murderer ensues. They're great. Penhallow is different. Lots of incredibly unattractive characters, nobody dies until three quarters of the way through the book, we are with the murderer at the point they do the deed - we know who they are, how they do it, why they do it - and then ... well, I won't spoil it for you, but the Inspect ...more
May 16, 2016 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
This book really isn't a mystery. It could have been about half the length and still have communicated that the murder victim, Adam Penhallow, was a tyrant, who forced all his children to live at home, or get no money from him. Seriously. If you want to read a really despicable excuse for a human, this belittler of his wife and children ranks up there as one character who needs killing. The murderer commits the murder right there on the page, no mystery to it. It is definitely not as good a book ...more
Karlyne Landrum
Aug 27, 2009 Karlyne Landrum rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Probably the most unusual of Ms. Heyer's books, but probably my favorite. It's a murder "mystery" that isn't a mystery; we follow the murderer from her justification of the murder through the murder itself to the disintegration of the household she thought she was saving from an overbearing vicious brute. Do we ever know where our actions will lead, regardless of our intentions? Does good ever come from evil?
Sarah Shaber
Oct 24, 2012 Sarah Shaber rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A remarkable book. At first I thought it was a parody of the traditional British country house mystery, with the abusive elderly father just asking to be murdered by one of his children! But then I became so vested in the characters and the mystery I could not put it down! I have not read Heyer before, and I am delighted that she's written about 50 books!
Nov 22, 2014 Debbie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: suspense
I read Heyer's book because I like the humor in them. This was a tragedy; if you liked the ending of Hamlet, then you might like how this book turns out. Basically, we have a bunch of miserable adult children living under their spiteful, power-craving father. Someone (and we know whom) kills him in a way that should have passed for a natural death, but it's discovered as murder. All the people that the murderer intended should be free to live their lives in happiness instead end up unhappy, dead ...more
Feb 14, 2016 Mardia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me a while to decide precisely what I thought of this book, as it's not quite one thing or the other--it's not a true mystery novel and somehow it's not exactly a character study either. For it to be a true character study, we needed less characters around to keep from things getting muddled (there's literally no purpose to having Audrey around, for example, aside from the opportunity to slip in some homophobia) and the ending feels rather rushed and abrupt. It's interesting, however, an ...more
Jun 07, 2014 Julie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british
It's labeled as a mystery, but it isn't really a mystery. More of a pyschological drama with a murder in it. None of the characters is really sympathetic. Actually, they are all pretty loathsome, though one or two show some tiny redeeming qualities near the end. It took more than 3/4 of the book before the murder was committed and then we know who the murderer is at the time it happens. There is no real detective work done and the murderer is never caught. It merely looks at the psychological ef ...more
Feb 01, 2014 Melanti rated it liked it
A very odd sort of mystery and almost written backwards.

It starts off with meeting the entire family, airing everyone's dirty laundry, and establishing that nearly everyone has a motive to commit the murder. The murder itself doesn't happen until about 2/3 of the way through the book - and when it does, it's no mystery at all - we're told exactly who, why and how.

The rest of the novel just deals with the aftermath, and the little bit of suspense comes from wondering if the murderer gets away wit
Elizabeth Hunter
'A very unsatisfactory case,' the Inspector said.

That's the last line of this book and I couldn't agree more. There is not a single likeable character in this story--each and every one has been twisted and blighted by the patriarch of the Penhallow family. When he is finally killed more than 2/3 of the way through, it is a relief, and since we know exactly who did it, there is no suspense except whether or not the murderer will be exposed.

But that's not the worst of it--the worst is the endless
Dec 25, 2011 Amy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
The worst Georgette Heyer book I have ever read. If this was my first Heyer, I'd never give her another try. And that is really saying something. Penhallow is the story of a tyrant who enjoys dragging his enormous brood of kids home and setting them up against one another. Almost all of them have a reason to kill him. And then one day he is found poisoned!
Intersting plot, deathly boring book. I liked two of the characters. Two. Out of 12+ "main" characters. Most of them are insipid, immoral, obn
I have had Penhallow by Georgette Heyer on my TBR (and, in fact, my TBB--To Be Bought) List for ages. Ever since I first discovered her 1930s/40s mysteries about 10-15 years ago. Up until this year, Penhallow has proved very elusive-the library never had it and I never could find it on my used bookstore rounds. But Sourcebooks Landmark has recently re-issued Heyer's books in a compact, nicely covered series and when I saw Penhallow sitting on the shelf at my local Border's I snatched it right up ...more
Mar 28, 2012 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a difficult read for me--not because I couldn't read it, but because I wasn't sure if I wanted to finish reading it. And when I did finish it, I was "bemused." The stilted diction and description of everything that could possibly be described among the household furnishings of a wealthy family's manor house, etc., made the novel sseem almost interminable. But, that was the whole point, I think--to describe the never-ending hopeless feelings of being "trapped" that the characters have. T ...more
Mary Liz
This was a sadder smarter book. Characters were both irritating and familiar, and I had some sympathy with all of them. I read this years ago, and just re-read it. I do appreciate the message, murder does not solve the problem. I also think the old man must have had late stage syphilis, just sayin'.
Jun 30, 2015 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Talk about a dysfunctional family. I was hooked though. I wanted to just shout at the characters to get out of there & live better lives. We knew who was going to die & then we knew who did it. So, not a mystery. I did find the ending a tad abrupt. Maybe I wanted them to have their HEAs.
Jul 09, 2009 Sue rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, read-2009
I didn't really enjoy this book. Very unusual for Georgette Heyer. I found the early part too long-winded and descriptive, and although the characters were good - once I'd figured out who was whom - I found the storyline rather disturbing.

The murder doesn't take place until over half-way through the book, and then it's written in an unusual way, with the reader shown exactly what happens. I kept thinking there would be some twist - perhaps along the lines of Agatha Christie's classic 'Orient Ex
Feb 26, 2016 Susan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: escape-books, 2016
A good murder mystery has the murder front & central, and it is a mystery. In this book, you have to wade through half the book and then there's no question as to whodunit. My only consolation is that other reviewers have also been puzzled.
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Georgette Heyer Fans: As requested - Penhallow thread! 32 31 Feb 06, 2016 10:30PM  
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Georgette Heyer was a prolific historical romance and detective fiction novelist. Her writing career began in 1921, when she turned a story for her younger brother into the novel The Black Moth.

In 1925 she married George Ronald Rougier, a mining engineer, and he often provided basic plot outlines for her thrillers. Beginning in 1932, Heyer released one romance novel and one thriller each year.

More about Georgette Heyer...

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