It's the end of the roaring Twenties, and the exuberant and Honorable Phryne Fisher is dancing and gaming with gay abandon. But she becomes bored with London and the endless round of parties. In search of excitement, she sets her sights on a spot of detective work in Melbourne.
And so mystery and the beautiful Russian dancer, Sasha de Lisse, appear in her life. From then on it's all cocaine and communism until her adventure reaches its steamy end in the Turkish baths of Little Lonsdale Street.
One of my reading goals for 2007 is to read some more Australian authors, something I haven't done very much of at all this year! Kerry Greenwood lives in Melbourne, like me, and uses many locations in Melbourne as part of her books.
This book is the first of the Phryne (pronounced Fry-knee to rhyme with briny) Fisher mysteries that are set in the latter stages of the Roaring 20's. The author does a fantastic job of bringing a sense of time and place to the story, with both the locations that are still in the city (like the Windsor Hotel where she bases herself on her arrival from England) and the others that are no longer there like the Turkish baths of Little Lonsdale Street.
Phryne is a young, wealthy and independent young lady, but she hasn't always been that way, having been born in a poor suburb in Melbourne. Her family came into wealth when some distant family members died, and suddenly her father found himself a member of the aristocracy. Life changed dramatically for Phryne, but she still remembers what it was like before, and this gives her a heart for the destitute, the deprived. Within days of arriving in England, she has found herself a young lady to be a made, become friends with a couple of lovable larrikins with a decided bent towards communism who come in very handy at several stages throughout the book.
It is only when she realises that she is being framed for drug possession that Phryne realises how much danger she may really be in, but it doesn't stop her from taking loads of risks in trying to expose the Mr Big of cocaine smuggling.
A very entertaining read. I am very much looking forward to reading more in this series.
I really like the Phryne Fisher website as well - it gives a very good feel to the setting of the 1920's!
Originally posted on my blog in December 2006