I discovered Greenwood quite by chance somewhere around 2007. And ever since I have eagerly awaited the next installment of a Phryne Fisher or Corrinna Chapman mystery. You can just imagine how thrilled I was when ABC started airing the TV series of Phryne Fisher last year.
Accordingly I was excited to find a new offering – Phryne’s 19th outing Unnatural Habits. I bought it to read on my flight overseas at the end of the year and avoided it till I was in my plane seat.
Phryne is much the same, the same devil may care attitude towards social conventions that don’t make any sense, the same thrill when danger is around, the same degree of annoyance that people are doing things they shouldn’t. Nasty things. And indeed they are.
In 1920s-30s Melbourne, girls are missing yet again. Young girls, young pregnant girls, those who wanted to be, and those who didn’t want to be, sold to the highest bidder, raped, and those who find themselves caught up in the white slave trade. Smack bang in the middle of all this lands an eager female reporter, keen to prove herself, naive to the extreme. As if young girls disappearing and a reporter nearly getting beaten up if not for the intervention of Phryne were not enough to make Phryne curious, Phryne has to get involved when the reporter herself vanishes.
She has to follow a trail through socialist and feminist run communes, through charitable nuns who run laundry services, while combing through brothels and clubs and keeping Inspector Jack Robinson informed just enough to ensure he doesn’t forbid her from becoming kidnapped and sold off herself. Because to solve this mystery that’s just what she may have to do.
If you have never read the Fisher series before, you are in for a treat. Mix a flapper in ’20s Melbourne with a radically (for the time) feminist attitude and an inclination to assume that she is James Bond and you have Phryne. Start with Cocaine Blues and work your way up – the novels vary a tad in the relationships between people when compared to the TV series and you will not regret diving into the entire collection of cases. The latest reports on Greenwood’s FB page state that she is currently writing the next Phryne Fisher – music to my ears. The sooner the better.
Genre: Crime Fiction
Author: Kerry Greenwood
Series: Phryne Fisher
Publisher: Allen & Unwin (The Alien and the Onion)