The Curse of Penryth Hall is a Gothic Mystery mostly set at a large manor home in the Cornish countryside.
We follow an American heiress, Ruby Vaugh, who after a scandal back home, gets sent to live in Exeter, where she helps run a cozy bookshop.
One day Ruby is given an assignment to go deliver a box of books to a folk healer living in Cornwall. It just so happens her destination will take her to the doorstep of Penryth Hall, where her once dear, now estranged friend, Tamsyn, lives with her husband, Sir Edward Chenowyth.
Ruby hasn’t seen Tamsyn since her wedding. The women didn’t part under the best of conditions and there’s a lot of tension simmering just under the surface, but Ruby feels compelled to reconnect nonetheless.
The property itself feels dark and stifling. There’s not a lot of lightness flowing through the corridors. Tamsyn is a mother now and her young son seems to be her pride and joy. Her husband, however, not so much.
After a tense and uncomfortable dinner, Ruby isn’t sure what to think. It seems Tamsyn has gotten herself into a bad position, but how can Ruby possibly help? Tamsyn is an adult. She made her choices.
For her part, Ruby can’t wait to get out of there. She’ll spend one night and then go, back to her life in Exeter. Ruby’s plans for leaving are dashed though when Edward’s dead body is discovered the following morning in the orchard.
The state of the body point to the most gruesome of deaths. Shortly thereafter, talk of the curse begins. Ruby is puzzled by this. Surely, these people don’t truly believe that a curse killed Sir Edward?
She begins to look into it. She wants to prove that a person, a real human being in the flesh, must have killed Edward. And if they did, anyone in Penryth could still be in danger, including Tamsyn and her son.
She ends up teaming up with the person who brought her to Cornwall in the first place, Ruan Kivell, the folk healer, known to the locals as a Pellar. Although Ruby isn’t sold on his brand of healing, she can’t help but admit when he begins to help her in big ways.
Will the two of them be able to put their differences aside long enough to discover what happened to Sir Edward, or will their bickering get in the way?
The Curse of Penryth Hall was a delightful surprise for me. I’m an Atmosphere Girlie, first and foremost, and this entire story was dripping in it.
I also loved Ruby as a main character and the chemistry between her and Ruan, and I don’t even mean that in a romance way, just the overall dynamic between the two of them, was fantastic. Their back-and-forth; the pull and push of their relationship was so fun to watch.
I enjoyed the gothic vibes and having Ruby being a plucky, outspoken protagonist seemed perfect for the setting. She was almost like a fish out of water, but ended up really becoming invested in the goings-on of that little village.
I also really enjoyed how Armstrong played this out. It had a lovely is it supernatural, is it not feel to it that I always enjoy. I thought it was well paced and the mystery was intriguing.
The only thing I wasn’t crazy about was the relationship between Ruby and Tamsyn. I didn’t like Tamsyn, so didn’t really get why Ruby seemed so attached her. I guess I just didn’t get enough of their history to have their relationship make sense to me.
Overall, this was just a really good, solid mystery with fantastically-gothic vibes. I had a lot of fun with the setting, story and characters.
There were a few statements at the end that lead me to believe this could be the first in a series. Personally, I would be super stoked if that were the case. I would love to follow Ruby on more adventures.
I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys historically-set mysteries with heavy gothic vibes. I would also definitely recommend it to fans of Hester Fox, or Sarah Penner.
Thank you to the publisher, Minotaur Books and Dreamscape Media, for providing me with copies to read and review. The Curse of Penryth Hall releases on December 5, 2023!!!