Thursday, 9 April 2015

Book Review: Cocaine Blues (a.k.a. Miss Phryne Fisher Investigates) by Kerry Greenwood



About the author:
Kerry Greenwood has written more than forty novels, six non-fiction works and is the editor of two collections. She is also the author of the Phryne Fisher mystery series and the Corinna Chapman crime series, several books for young adults and the Delphic Women series. When she is not writing she is an advocate in Magistrates' Court for the Legal Aid Commission. She is not married, has no children and lives with a registered Wizard. Visit her website at: phrynefisher.com

My rating:
Very good (8/10)

My review:

Cocaine Blues (published as Miss Phryne Fisher Investigates in the UK) is the first novel in Kerry Greenwood’s acclaimed Phryne Fisher Mysteries series. The story’s fast-paced and whimsical, full of twists and turns, and colourful characters. It’s a light and fun read, perfect for a lazy afternoon with a cup of tea, or a cold weekend when the rain won’t stop.

In Cocaine Blues, bored socialite Phryne Fisher leaves the tedium of the London season at the end of the 1920s for adventure in Australia! Tea-dances in West End hotels, weekends in the country with guns and dogs... The Honourable Phryne Fisher - she of the grey-green eyes and diamante garters - is rapidly tiring of the boredom of chit-chatting with retired colonels and foxtrotting with weak-chinned wonders. 

Instead, Phryne decides it might be amusing to try her hand at being a lady detective - on the other side of the world! As soon as she books into the Windsor Hotel in Melbourne, Phryne is embroiled in mystery: poisoned wives, drug smuggling rings and corrupt cops... not to mention erotic encounters with beautiful Russian ballet star Sasha de Lisse; England’s green and pleasant land just can't compete with these new, exotic pleasures!

Kerry Greenwood’s novel Cocaine Blues grabbed me from the very beginning and kept me turning the pages late into the night. In fact, I finished it in one sitting and immediately hurried off to order the next instalment in the series. I loved almost everything about it. The prose is light and often witty, the characters are well-drawn and vibrant, and the story moves swiftly to its (hilarious) conclusion. Sure, the murder-mystery wasn't all that hard to solve, especially if you’re a fan of the genre, but that didn't lessen the fun. Why? Because of Phryne, of course.

So what’s so special about Miss Fisher? Well, let me see. She’s glamorous and chic (check); she’s confident and resourceful (check); she can dance, pilot a plane, and knows how to shoot a gun (check); she owns every room she walks into and is not afraid to get her hands dirty, so to speak (check). Did I mention her wardrobe’s to die for, and so are the men in her life? Surely I must have. No? Well… duh!

But enough about that. The truth is, Kerry Greenwood has done a splendid job with her whole cast of characters. Everybody from Phryne’s tough and decisive friend Dr MacMillan, through her shrewd, tidy and yet also a little naïve maid and companion Dorothy, to the witty Communist taxi drivers Burt and Sec is vividly imagined, portrayed and depicted.

Now, here I must point out that if you, like me, have discovered the books through the TV show of the same name, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, then you too are in for a little disappointment. And his name is Detective Inspector John ‘call me Jack, everyone else does’ Robinson. Or rather, it’s his absence from most of the novel. (And don’t even start me on Aunt Prudence…)

Minor quibbles aside, Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood is definitely a novel worth reading. It’s like the delicious lovechild of Agatha Christie’s Poirot and French novelist Colette’s Chéri – fun, sassy, and classy – like Phryne herself! Sure, it probably won’t change your world, but you know what? Dash it all and jump on for the ride! I promise, it’ll be one hell of a lot of fun.

Personal note:

If you haven’t done so already, check out ABC Australia’s excellent television series, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, starring Essie Davis, Nathan Page, and Ashley Cummings. The first two series are available on Amazon, and probably elsewhere too, with a third series in the works and planned to air later this year. You won’t regret it.



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