(I’m trying out a “format” for reviews. Feel free to leave a comment on it.)
I am a reviewer for Amazon Vine and this month I chose to review the first season of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries on DVD. This is an Australian TV show based on the Phryne Fisher mystery series by Kerry Greenwood. While I was waiting for the DVD set to arrive in the mail I read Cocaine Blues, the first book in the series.
About the book
The first of Phryne’s adventures from Australia’s most elegant and irrepressible sleuth.
The London season is in full fling at the end of the 1920s, but the Honourable Phryne Fisher – she of the green-grey eyes, diamant garters and outfits that should not be sprung suddenly on those of nervous dispositions – is rapidly tiring of the tedium of arranging flowers, making polite conversations with retired colonels, and dancing with weak-chinned men. Instead, Phryne decides it might be rather amusing to try her hand at being a lady detective in Melbourne, Australia.
Almost immediately from the time she books into the Windsor Hotel, Phryne is embroiled in mystery: poisoned wives, cocaine smuggling rings, corrupt cops and communism – not to mention erotic encounters with the beautiful Russian dancer, Sasha de Lisse – until her adventure reaches its steamy end in the Turkish baths of Little Lonsdale Street.
What stood out about the book
This was a well-crafted mystery with well developed characters and a strong setting. Several threads of the story involve sexual situations. Dot, the maid Phryne hires, was let go from her previous position because her employers son claimed she tried to seduce him. In reality, he was the pursuer and Dot refused him. Getting her sacked was his revenge. When Dot and Phryne meet, Dot is in a desperate state, with nowhere to go and no possibility of getting another position with her reputation in tatters.
Alice, a more minor character in the story, is the victim of first, a sweet talking cad and then a vicious abortionist who rapes his patients before performing substandard abortions. Like Dot, Alice was from the lower class, with little money and few options.
In contrast, Phryne, a wealthy and educated woman, has access to birth control. She chooses lovers as she wishes, with no thought of marriage. If pregnancy were to occur, her money would ensure that she could handle it as she saw fit. Surely she could afford an abortion from a reputable doctor. She could also afford to hide out during her pregnancy, give the baby up and return to her life with none of set the wiser. And with no need to obtain employment, Phryne could even flout society’s rules and raise the child alone. Even “good girl” Dot declares Phryne to be outside the rules that govern others where sex is concerned.
These threads made this book a little less fluffy than the standard cozy mystery and left me with something to think about.
While I truly enjoyed the story, the historical setting and everything else about this book, I have one small complaint. Phryne is a marvelous, larger-than-life type of character but sometimes it seemed as if she were just a bit too smart, too cool, too perfect. I hope that future books will show another side of her – a more human side.
Who should read this book?
Lovers of historical fiction and/or vintage fashion would enjoy this book. Those who are offended by sexual situations or abortion should probably avoid it.