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By Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen Press, March 2006 ($24.95) Hardcover
Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel
This is the first in the excellent Phryne Fisher series from Australian author Kerry Greenwood, reprinted in the U.S. by Poisoned Pen Press.
The reader learns how Phryne went from rags to riches, from the slums of Melbourne to the society drawing rooms of London, by way of some unfortunate but well-timed deaths in the family line. Now the Honourable Phryne Fisher, the darling of the social set in 1920s England, she has become bored with house parties and swell soirees. When she cleverly solves a jewel robbery at a social gathering, she decides that detecting would be just the thing to take her away from her stifling existence. She finds her first client right there at the party. A retired colonel and his wife offer to employ Phryne to travel to Australia and investigate their daughter's puzzling behavior and recurrent, suspicious illnesses. Phryne declines their money but takes the case on her own terms, and soon she is back in the country of her childhood, loaded down with several trunk loads of glamorous kit and ready for adventure.
Phryne takes a suite in the best hotel in Melbourne, the Windsor, and quickly gets involved in crimes and misdemeanors and mysteries of all sorts, from the cocaine of the title to illegal and botched abortions, poisoned wives, larcenous but seductive Russian dancers, communism, police corruption, and much, much more. She meets several of the characters who will become her staunchest friends and allies in later books, including her able assistant Dot, cabbies and strongmen Cec and Bert, and Detective-Inspector Robinson.
Although I've read the books out of order, it's made no difference to my enjoyment of this delightful series. Each book can stand on its own, and I'm looking forward to reading the rest, in whatever order they are published.
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