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3.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,392 Ratings  ·  156 Reviews
A family tyrant whose murder has shocking and far-reaching consequences...

Hated for his cruel and vicious nature, yet ruling his family with an iron hand from his sickbed, tyrannical patriarch Adam Penhallow is found murdered the day before his birthday. His entire family had assembled for his birthday celebration, and every one of them had the ways and means to commit the
Kindle Edition, 457 pages
Published October 1st 2010 by Sourcebooks Landmark (first published 1942)
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Carol  ꧁꧂
I was undecided about my rating for Penhallow, but finally decided to rate based on the fact this is an excellent, but flawed book.

Now, this isn't what I felt the first couple of times I read it! This is a hard world to visit, full of unlikeable characters. Only Aunt Clara & Clifford are at all sympathetic. The aging & bedridden Penhallow rules his family with a rod of iron. Only his daughter Char is free & that is because a legacy as made her financially independent. Most of Penhall
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 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011-reads, mysteries
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 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very enjoyable read. It's not you're average run of the mill murder mystery. The murder doesn't occur until nearly three quarters of the way into the story. We know who the killer is and even then it's ending is unexpected.
I think that's why I liked it so much.
Jun 02, 2011 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
Gina Dalfonzo
Aug 08, 2011 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
Jane Jago
Sep 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A period piece. This is enchanting. A murder victim who nobody likes. Lots of clues and red herrings.

It's a grand romp.
Jul 06, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is a story about the Penhallow family of Trevellin in Cornwall. Adam Penhallow rules his family with an iron fist from his bed, where he guzzles whiskey, swears and speaks openly about his many exploits with women. He even employs one of his illegitimate sons, Jimmy, as a servant in the household, causing tension among his legitimate offspring. Eldest son Ray loves the estate more than anything else and wishes his father would stop spending money he can ill afford to spend. Ray is a close o ...more
Dillwynia Peter
Penhallow is definitely not your standard murder mystery. For a start, the reader knows straight out who the murderer is, and their motives. I really liked this concept, and in the hands of a great literary giant, this could have been an interesting analysis into the effects a murder has on those immediately affected. Unfortunately, Heyer is not a literary giant, and sadly, the book falls short.

This is such a shame, and if only Heyer had devoted more pages to the fall out after the murder, rat
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
Aug 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Ah, now I get the Heyer love. Picked this up because several of my GR and BL friends swear by Heyer. It was enjoyable. More of a domestic drama than a flat out mystery. It's like a forerunner of Ruth Rendell when she is/was writing as Barbara Vine.

Heyer looks at a family that is under the thumb of the worst Dickens character ever (think an evil Martin Chuzzlewit). Then the horse manure hits the fan. It's actually quite a good book with nice little touches.
Dec 06, 2015 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.
Aug 25, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I've enjoyed Heyer's murder mysteries in the past but this one was nothing like the others. It has ghastly characters and chunters along for about 300 pages before the inevitable murder occurs. If I had read this one first I never would have read any others.
Abigail Bok
Penhallow is a bit of an odd duck in the Georgette Heyer canon—not historical fiction, not a “serious” novel (like the worst of her oeuvre), not really a murder mystery—more of a genre novel with some violence but no detecting. It is set in Cornwall in a vague present day (“present” referring to 1942, when it was published, though there is no mention of World War II, so maybe it should be described as between-the-wars).

Nearly all the action takes place, claustrophobically, in a mansion dominated
Pamela Shropshire
I had read several reviews prior to reading this book, so I knew it wasn't a typical mystery; nor was it typical of Georgette Heyer.

The Penhallows are a very dysfunctional family, which is always fun to read about. The patriarch, Adam Penhallow, is a mean-spirited, cantankerous, selfish, improvident old man who delights to keep his many children under his thumb. It's no wonder he is murdered.

As I said above, this is not a typical murder mystery. It's more psychological study, but it's a lot of
Mar 23, 2013 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
Aug 21, 2011 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
Dec 12, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries, kindle
I have enjoyed almost all of Heyer’s mysteries but this one was just a trial to get through. Imagine being trapped at a family reunion where everyone is horrible; there are no likeable characters in this story. Even if you had not read the back cover, it's perfectly obvious that the tyrannical father is going to be murdered, but over halfway through the book he still hasn't been killed; then when he is, there is literally no mystery about who did it. This book left me depressed, like I had just ...more
Karlyne Landrum
Aug 27, 2009 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?
Asghar Abbas
Jun 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Wordlings, such glorious words.

Utterly proves the adage you can't make an incredibly talented person write a badly written book. As in, she can't write a bad book even if she wanted to. And Heyer wanted to; to get out of an unsatisfactory contract with her publishers. And this book was the result of that. What a result.

Game of Thrones withdrawal trivia : I am willing to bet all my castles I built in the air that Martin based old Lord Frey on Penhallow, heh.
Sarah Shaber
Oct 24, 2012 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!
Jun 10, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Krisette Spangler
This is one of those books where I hated every character. I don't think I'll be picking up another Heyer mystery novel anytime soon.
Nira Ramachandran
Oct 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of Georgette Heyer’s detective novels, Penhallow is a revelation. I would not myself classify it as a detective novel, as the reader is well aware of the perpetrator of the crime, but neither does it fall into the light-hearted regency romance novels for which she is best known. Penhallow draws the reader into a world of country residences and landed property, which passes from generation to generation, with additions made in haphazard architectural fashion according to the whims and fancies ...more
May 29, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Disabled tyrant Adam Penhallow loves keeping all his grown children and their spouses at his Cornish manor house, financially dependent on him so he's free to shower them with vicious mental and verbal abuse to the content of his satanic heart. His cowering second wife is among those he loves to torment, as well, making her life a living hell. Some of his sons are able to tolerate him well enough, but heir Ray is furious with the ruin his father is making of the manor's financial resources, Bart ...more
Louise Culmer
This book is, rather oddly, classified with Heyer's mysteries, though it is not one. The murder occurs late in the book, and we know who has done it and why. The only real mystery is why the ghastly victim has not been murdered years earlier. Most of the book is about horrible, tyrannical Adam penhallow tormenting his sons and enjoying making them hate him. The sons mostly hate each other as well. Adam also likes to torment his rather feeble second wife Faith. Faith hates and fears her husband, ...more
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 23, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: georgette-heyer
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
May 15, 2016 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
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Georgette Heyer Fans: As requested - Penhallow thread! 32 38 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.

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“No, no I wouldn't annoy him for the world!" Aubrey said. "I do think he was quite pleased to see his little Aubrey, don't you? I have always regarded myself as the feminine influence in the family and quite definitely beneficent.” 1 likes
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