This is a very guilty secret of mine. Miss. Phryne Fisher and I are not strangers. I am well acquainted with two seasons of the Australian TV Show, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, set in the 30s, featuring the honourable Phryne Fisher, Lady Detective. I love that this is my guilty secret, as Miss. Phryne Fisher (played by Essie Davis) is a magnificent character. I have also introduced my Mum to Phryne, and subsequently bought this novel for her. I was a little worried I wouldn’t enjoy it and that I would thoroughly unimpressed.
I really enjoy the period of time. I enjoy the music, the gin, the suits, the flapper girls, the wonderful lifestyle of this intelligent Lady Detective who is full of sass. I love the character tensions and the fun and just how light and endearing it is. This is no Miss. Marple, no quiet village, no stuffy story, Phryne Fisher is a completely different creature. I think that on the quiet, I may have a crush on Miss. Fisher and as characters go there are worse fictional socialites to adore.
The novel begins at a dinner party. Phryne Fisher is bored, frustrated by her life in London and ready for some excitement. After uncovering a poorly planned theft at the dinner party, Phryne is engaged to investigate the welfare of a respectable couple’s daughter. It just so happens that Lydia is in Australia and Phryne Fisher sees it as a perfect excuse for a little excitement and to turn her hand at being a Lady Detective. Phryne and her old friend Dr. Elizabeth MacMillan, journey to Australia together and arrive in a far more elaborate plot than they were expecting. Russian dancers, sex, cocaine, and illegal abortionists corner every street.
The cast of characters are wonderful, there is much to love in Miss. Fisher. Unafraid and bold, she moves through social circles in an array of beautiful costumes but is also not afraid to get her hands dirty. She has her little gun and her other charms and she knows how to use them. She has no intention to marry or have children and is adamant in her own opinions and in her loyalty to her friends. Miss. Fisher is a ‘good’ character, but she has her streaks of scandal and ‘bad’ but they are simply playful and perhaps only ‘bad’ within the context of the time. Her promiscuity and some of the company she keeps are two examples, that add to her reputation and cause rumours.
This is such an enjoyable read and is surprising in its richness. The writing is as bold as the characters and sometimes a little comic. But any comedy doesn’t detract from the story it simply makes it more enjoyable. There is a very strong sense of voice attributed to Miss. Fisher which to my delighted surprise is almost identical to the characterisation within the TV show. I would read this again in a heartbeat, if anyone would like to send me the rest of the set I will gladly read all of them back to back!
This isn’t a profound novel, but it’s fun and light and a good escape from the day to day and certainly a good introduction to interesting storytelling and scandal and fierce wonderful women.