Hated for his cruel and vicious nature, 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 crime. As accusations and suspicion turn in one direction and then another, the claws and backstabbing come out, and no one is exempt from the coming implosion.
©1942 Georgette Rougier (P)2015 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
"Georgette Heyer is second to none in her ability to make detective stories entertaining." (The Sunday Times)
"Sharp, clear and witty." (The New Yorker)
"Rarely have we seen humour and mystery so perfectly blended." (The New York Times)
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"Not typical of Georgette Heyer"
If you love Georgette Heyer for her cheerfully witty repartee and nice cosy plots, don't expect either of those here. If you like edgy, psychological melodrama and don't mind outmoded social conventions and politically incorrect attitudes, you may find this an interesting take on how just about every variety of the emotionally scarred, pushed to the limit, might have reacted "back in the day". Most of the conflict has to do with what is and isn't acceptable behavior for members of various social classes. (Keep in mind that this was written in the early 1940s: we might hope that no one is outraged today when the son of a wealthy family wants to marry one of the maids, but does anyone honestly believe that we have come that far?) "What evil lurks in the hearts of men?" The immortal question of the roughly contemporaneous radio drama "The Shadow" expresses the theme, though we would add, "and from whence cometh that evil?"
Penhallow is not so much a mystery as a novel about a dysfunctional family on a rapid slide into disaster. The nasty tone is set by the opening words: "Jimmy the Bastard", repeated throughout as though it was his given name. The puzzle for the reader to solve is which of the many thoroughly detestable suspects we would most like to see hang for the inevitable murder (which doesn't take place until two-thirds of the way in), and who we would most enjoy seeing get away with it.
Penhallow is the tyrannical patriarch of a huge brood of vipers. If any character ever needed killing, this is he. Almost every other character has good reason to do him in, but while any one of them might well be capable of murder, no one seems quite ready to step in to do the deed. Much of the book consists of unpleasant exchanges between ever-revolving combinations from among Penhallow, his numerous offspring and in-laws, servants, and wife number two. Some of the nastiness is rather delicious, but enough is enough and too much quickly becomes tedious. It would have been better if Heyer had dropped a few of the siblings and brought the delightful sister Charmaine home earlier.
I have long been a great fan of Georgette Heyer, ever since my 8th grade English teacher recommended The Grand Sophy. The historical romances are a pleasant tidbit for my dedicated Jane Austen tastes, but what my cosy side truly adores is her mysteries. When Audible began adding them, I jumped on the chance to re-visit Inspectors Hannasyde and Hemmingway, and resolved to listen my way through the entire Heyer list. For fans of the English country house genre, the mysteries hold up well as a rule, but this a major departure from Heyer's other work. I am ambivalent about my ratings: the writing is good, if long-winded; some of the characters are nicely developed, while others are a bit thin. I can't say I really enjoyed the first half or more and I was leaning towards one or two stars -- everyone is just so completely unpleasant! Once I got to the murder, I was glad to have stuck with it. The ending is, well, avoiding spoilers, let's just say the ending is ..... different. The narration is very good -- except for a few sections of exposition that lapse into a soft, sleepy lull that doesn't fit in with the rest of the book.
I doubt if I'll ever listen to this again. I didn't hate it, but I was glad when it was over. Whew!
The characters were well-written, but the book didn't express any hope of any kind even through trials.
This is a stepfamily with a cast of characters so unpleasant that no matter the ending it would disappoint. This is not to say that Heyer's writing falls short. I was compelled to keep listening even though Heyer reveals the murderer early on. I was waiting for a redeeming twist. The twist is there, but it redeems no one. This is nothing like the light hearted, tongue in cheek Heyer novels of her earlier years. Still, I think I'm glad I listened.
Lacks her usual wit. It was a struggle to finish listening. This one is at the bottom of my list.
"A story of unintended consequences."
This may not be one of my favorites of Heyer's mysteries, but, I thought it was well worth listening to for character studies. True, these people were victims of their class system and snobbery, a father who would probably be on the short list for sociopathic behavior (not the murdering kind,) a misplaced sense of entitlement by members of the family and finally a realistic approach to the concept that not all things end well in the world of actual human behavior. Perhaps the greatest drawback to this book is that it lacked Ms. Heyer's usual sense of humor in dealing with the absurd society of the time.
Extremely well written, but, not for those who want blue birds and butterflies at the end.
"I disliked this book."
No one in my family, we like better endings.
I have enjoyed everything that I have read of hers until this book. It had a lousy ending. Such a waste of a young life. I love her mysteries and her romances. Her characters are done so well. But this book was so heart wrenching. The oldest son didn't deserve all the blame and suffering he got. There was no justice in this book.
The reader did a great job.
Anger, sadness and disappointment.
I ten key at work all day. I listen to books to keep my mind busy. Typing numbers can be very boring. However I don't like to cry at work because the book was so sad. It's embarrassing.
Well written but don't expect the usual kind of story by this author. This is a very dark novel.
There is not a single character to root for!
Disappointment and frustration! I am a HUGE Heyer fan and this is the first book I am actually sorry I read.
"What an ending!"
I didn't think a story has ever left me with such a sense of discomfort as this one. I was not expecting an ending like this. Wow!
How ironic, indeed...
I really have enjoyed all the Georgette Heyer books I have listened to, except this one. Very dark, very depressing. I really would not recommend this book to anyone.
Yes, However, I will be more diligent about reading the reviews,
"Kill Me Now"
Sigh. Firstly, why oh WHY did they choose this narrator for Heyer's crime books? Her voices are like nails on a blackboard, and her pronunciation is appalling. She wrecks even the best of Heyer's whodunnits - and this is not one of them. I can only assume that Georgette Heyer was in the grip of depression when she wrote this one. Her usual light touch, witty dialogue, excellent characterisation (especially seen in very minor characters), and intricate plots, are all missing. The book is depressing, squalid, dull, without a single likeable character in it. I'm halfway through (it's long one) and so far there has been no crime. I'm losing the will to live.
"Couldn't agree more!"
The best thing about Ulli is her voice is so boring she successfully puts me to sleep within 10 minutes! He constant mispronunciation, however, drives me round the bend! This is by far the worst one so far, and if I'd have bought this one first I definitely wouldn't have bought the others! I wanted to give performance no stars but the site won't let me!
Not in the same league as her Regency novels
The book was dreadful. The story was never interesting - though I persisted to the end in the hope that it would have something that redeemed it. The narrator is so totally without personality that, even if the book had been interesting, she would have spoiled it. I will never read another Georgette Heyer non-Regency novel and I will never listen to another audiobook narrated by Ulli Birve.
"Not Your Usual Heyer, but Well Worth Listening To"
I have now read all of the Georgette Heyer novels. Both the Regency and the Detective stories. This, is not like either of them. It's a long story of a very dysfunctional family, The murder does not take place immediately, but for one to understand why the murder takes place, one has to spend some time with this family. This novel allows you to spend that 'quality' time until you yourself wish to commit the crime!
Another departure from the typical Heyer murder/mystery fare is, our involvement in the actual crime! We know who, why, where, when and how! But ironically, that does not spell the end of the novel. Not even remotely. There's more…
I have read some of the previous reviews of this book, and in some instances it is claimed that the book is not one of Ms Heyer's better ones. However I would say that it is not one of Georgette Heyer's typical stories, it has far more depth to the story, there is far more going on in the foreground and in the background. You are allowed to see the daily lives of these people, and you also get drawn into the pettiness of the challenges they each face & the perfectly innocuous methods used to overcome each challenging situation.
Everything about this family is atypical. This is a lengthy novel because of it! But I think that it would have been a more laborious book to read than to listen to! With the exception of pronouncing the name of the cat incorrectly (I assume), the narrator does a really good job of presenting all of the characters to us and making the flow of the novel really seamlessly good. I think that the narration was really well done and helped to make this potentially long and drawn out novel a joy to listen to.
So, no it's not your usual Georgette Heyer novel, but it is still a masterpiece. Definitely worth listening to. Plus, you have to if you have listened or read all of her previous novels. You owe it to yourself, you know it makes sense.
"Great book - shame about the narrrator!"
Really good novel (mystery not Regency) from Georgette Heyer, with a truly unexpected, unusual ending. It will have taken some courage to break so many of the established 'rules' of crime fiction. Good for her!!
They are all pretty dreadful, but that's the point of the book.
Not knowingly! Although she's good at performing the voices, and hence the characterisation benefits, she is awful at pronunication. For instance there's a character called Charmian, but the narator pronounces it as Charmain throughout. What's even worse, she made it sound like Chow Mein! It was an irritant that never went away.
Does Audible check the merchandise it retails for quality? Does it pass on listener feedback to the recording companies? I'd love to see some evidence of Audible's quality control.
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