Thursday, January 19, 2012

Detection Unlimited and Penhallow by Georgette Heyer

You knew I'd be back to reading Georgette Heyer's mysteries soon. I had a couple of them on my shelves and wanted some comfort reading. Not the best choice, as it happened.

I picked up Detection Unlimited first. It was a slight, mostly fun read, just want I'd expected and no more. It's very much a typical Heyer mystery, although I wouldn't say it's close to her best. It has the usual motley cast of characters, jaunty dialogue, and baffling crime. I did guess the murderer, but not why the murderer did it; in fact, I was overthinking it, and the murderer did it for a very obvious reason. So, kind of disappointing plot-wise, but the characters were worth the read.

Then I picked up Penhallow, and my goodness was that a mistake. I wish someone had warned me. First of all, although it's marketed as a mystery, it's not. We get to witness the murderer doing the deed, and we know why and how. And it doesn't even happen until around page 300 (457 pages in my edition--a very long book). Even though by then I was baffled and annoyed at the wordiness, the grim tone, the relative lack of dialogue (jaunty or otherwise), and the slow pace, I still held out hope that Heyer would pull a twist--that the murderer would turn out to be mistaken, that Penhallow would have turned out to be murdered in some other way. But there is no twist.

The first 300 pages of the book are set-up on how monstrous Penhallow is, Penhallow being the bitchy, controlling head of the Penhallow family, and how much everyone hates him. Then he's murdered, and the remaining 150 pages are about how the family members react, and how surprised they are that they're not actually happier now that he's gone. Whee.

It's a good thing Penhallow wasn't the first Heyer mystery I picked up, because I would have missed out on a lot of her fun books.

Detection Unlimited B&N link
Penhallow B&N link


Kelly Robinson said...

I went to a conference once, and one of the lecturers said he was going to weave something "extra" into the talk and see if anyone caught it --a trick he said he used to keep his audience awake. I was the only one who caught what it was. He had inserted Heyer's titles into the speech! Even though he had done it cleverly, "Behold, Here's Poison" was a giveaway for me!

I've still never read any of her books, though.

K.C. Shaw said...

How do you work 'Behold, Here's Poison' into a lecture? I'm impressed. :)

Kelly Robinson said...

It helped that the subject was historical murders in Baltimore. I remember him saying something to the effect of "Never has there been a more clear-cut case of 'Behold, Here's Poison' than this one," or some such.

K.C. Shaw said...

Pretty tricky. And you caught it, good job.