I had intended to begin this series several times and just never got to for one reason or another. I finally took the plunge with the newest in the series. I found out that this series has been made into a TV murder mystery show (ABC1’s 13-part series) that began airing in 2012 in Australia (click here for more information.) So what is all the fuss about?
Just a quick note that I am attending West Coast Crime for four days. Today was the first day and it was great. One of the best writing conferences I have attended yet.
I am including this in my Historical Mystery Reading Challenge. You can still join us (click here.)
Copyright: January 2013 (Poisoned Pen Press) 250 pgs
Series: 19th in Phryne Fisher Mysteries
Sensuality: adult situations discussed or referrenced
Mystery Sub-genre: Historical PI
Main Characters: Phryne (pronounced Fry-nee) Fisher, independent liberated woman
Setting: 1929, Melbourne Australia
Obtained Through: Personal Purchase
An ambitious girl reporter, Polly Kettle, who has no sense of self preservation, decides to work as an investigative reporter rather than the fluff pieces she has been assigned. The story opens with Phyrne rescuing Polly from a gang intent on beating her and Polly shares the story she is investigating, girls are going missing in Melbourne. Little, pretty golden-haired girls. And not just pretty. Three of them are pregnant, poor girls from the harsh confines of the Magdalene Laundry. Shortly after Phryne rescues Polly, she goes missing herself.
Detective Inspector Jack Robinson enlists Phryne's assistance to investigate Polly's disappearance, which means she must investigate the Laundry, which is run by a convent - so it will be a field of land mines to investigate and require all of Phryne's abilities. Additionally, in investigating the young pregnant girls, it becomes clear that they were all victims of rape. Somebody seems to be avenging the girls by knocking the men unconscious and surgically altering the rapists to prevent any further unwanted pregnancies. There is also a code (SS 5.10 BM) that seems to keep coming up in association with the missing girls which Phyrne and her household have difficulty deciphering. There is a sense of urgency to find the pushy Polly Kettle and the other missing girls.
Phyrne has money, which allows her to live independent and outside many of the social restrictions on women at the time. She is smart and capable as an private investigator, assisting the police in this instance. She is also gutsy. This makes for a great character who is ahead of her time and enjoying it. Phyrne has a penchant for taking in strays. She employs several young people fondly called her minions, who live under her care, who assist by researching and providing light footwork on the investigations. Chief among these is Dot, who appears to be the eldest of Ms. Fisher's odd assortment. Dot is shy, proper, and loyal to Ms. Fisher. Dot is the counterpoint to Phyrne's free spirit, blushing at the slightest mention of male/female relations. The newest addition to the household is fourteen year old Tinker who wants to apprentice with Phyrne to be a cop one day. Tinker is amazed at having regular meals and his own space, since he came from abject poverty. Tinker begins to blossom during the investigation, even finds he enjoys playing chess with Jane. Tinker is a great character and his progress draws the reader into the household.
I enjoyed 1920s Australia as the setting. The details of Melbourne and small towns are clear and visceral, including the political climate. I am surprised it hasn't been used for more mystery settings.
The plot is solid, I found myself drawn in and hooked right away. The only aspect I stumbled over was the rescue of Polly at the beginning. Phyrne and her good friend witness Polly being surrounded by a gang and Phryne turns to her contingent of bodyguards provided by Lin Chung, her Chinese boyfriend, to rescue Polly. This seemed odd since those bodyguards are never really explained as to why they are present at that moment but not present again in the rest of the book. The pacing moves along as the investigation progresses and anxiety over the missing girls increases.
I loved the climax. Phyrne is in the middle of the action and plausibly pulls of a daring rescue in tandem with Detective Inspector Jack Robinson. The wrap up ties up loose ends and clears the decks for the next adventure. That was a great climax.
This was my first book in the Phryne Fisher Mysteries and I now I have the dilemma of finding the time to read the previous eighteen books in the series. I began the book curious and quickly became a fan. This is not a cozy, it is a well plotted and written private investigator story that uncovers some unsavory deeds. I would say it is soft boiled PI.
Rating: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.