When a crime novel begins with the immortal words “Jimmy the Bastard was cleaning boots …” then the reader can be certain they are about to be entertained! Adam Penhallow is hated and despised by just about every member of his family, with good reason since he enjoys nothing better than playing one warring family member off against another. Well, when said Penhallow winds up missing his birthday party by a whisker because of a brush with a poisoner it’s really no surprise at all. Indeed as the police inspector aptly declares the wonder is it hadn’t happened before!
This is a clever little crime novel. It’s not a whodunit in the traditional sense at all, as the murder is not the focus of the plot but the psychology of the Penhallow family. With an extensive list of characters each manages still to be perfectly drawn.
And as for Jimmy? In the opinion of the children of Penhallow Jimmy’s name is more than appropriate, and not just because he was born the wrong side of the sheets as Heyer herself would say.
Written in 1942 and set in a rambling Cornish country house near to Liskeard, this is an intriguing and pleasurable read. Recommended.