Jess Armstrong

Minotaur, 2023

Agent: Jill Marr

After the Great War, American heiress Ruby Vaughn made a life for herself running a rare bookstore alongside her octogenarian employer and house mate in Exeter. She’s always avoided dwelling on the past, even before the war, but it always has a way of finding her. When Ruby is forced to deliver a box of books to a folk healer living deep in the Cornish countryside, she is brought back to the one place she swore she’d never return. A more sensible soul would have delivered the package and left without rehashing old wounds. But no one has ever accused Ruby of being sensible. Thus begins her visit to Penryth Hall.

A foreboding fortress, Penryth Hall is home to Ruby’s once dearest friend, Tamsyn, and her husband, Sir Edward Chenowyth. It’s an unsettling place, and after a more unsettling evening, Ruby is eager to depart. But her plans change when Penryth’s bells ring for the first time in thirty years. Edward is dead; he met a gruesome end in the orchard, and with his death brings whispers of a returned curse. It also brings Ruan Kivell, the person whose books brought her to Cornwall, the one the locals call a Pellar, the man they believe can break the curse. Ruby doesn’t believe in curses?or Pellars?but this is Cornwall and to these villagers the curse is anything but lore, and they believe it will soon claim its next victim: Tamsyn.

To protect her friend, Ruby must work alongside the Pellar to find out what really happened in the orchard that night.


"This riveting romp. . . is a devilishly delightful read!” –B.R. Myers

“Perfect for fans of Hester Fox and Simone St. James.” –Anna Lee Huber

"Clear your calendar before you pick up The Curse of Penryth Hall, because once you start reading you won't want to stop." –Katharine Schellman

"Will have readers on the edge of their seats, and leave them wanting more of Ruby Vaughn." –Kate Khavari

"Curious and enthralling.” –Lydia Kang

"A witty and clever debut.” –Kelley Armstrong


Armstrong’s entrancing historical debut delivers an elegantly crafted, supernatural-tinged plot… Superbly rendered characters include a plucky protagonist whom Maisie Dobbs would be proud to claim as a friend and an evocative sense of place reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier at her best… Readers who like their historical mysteries embellished with plenty of gothic ambience and enhanced with an abundance of dry wit will adore this splendid debut.” Library Journal, starred review
"An intriguing and altogether enchanting mystery." Kirkus

[The Curse of Penryth Hall] is an engrossing debut...  Ruby is a wonderful concoction, world-weary and reckless, and Armstrong outfits her with a moody, gripping mystery that keeps the pages turning...Fans of Gothic-flavored suspense will devour this." Publishers Weekly

"Armstrong's lively prose will make cynics believe in curses and witches. Ruby's intelligence, insight, fearless nature, and complicated background will make readers eager for a sequel." Shelf Awareness 

“An atmospheric, fast-moving debut. . . This debut won the Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur First Crime Novel Competition, a well-deserved honor for a book whose gutsy main character and immersive world-building will remind readers of Margaret Dove in Evie Hawtrey’s And By Fire.” –First Clue