Then she got on the tram and sat near me. A lady with a Lulu bob, feather earrings, a black cloth coat with an Astrakhan collar and a black cloche jammed down over her exquisite eyebrows. She wore delicate shoes of sable glace kid with a Louis heel. She moved with a fine louche grace, as though she knew that the whole tram was staring at her and she both did not mind and accepted their adulation as something she merited. She leaned towards me. I smelt rice powder and Jicky. “Why not write about me?” she breathed.
Thus Kerry Greenwood describes her first encounter with her heroine in her foreword to this wonderful compendium of Phryne Fisher novels. It comprises Cocaine Blues, Flying too High and Murder on the Ballarat Train and is a great introduction to what can become a definite literary addiction. Cocaine Blues describes Phryne’s return to her birthplace, Melbourne, and her subsequent embroilment in a case involving drug trafficking and attempted murder with a cast of colourful characters including white Russian circus performers – there’s a good dose of first wave feminist sensibility as well in a sub plot about backyard abortionists. Flying Too High covers an abduction and a look at some of Phryne’s many other skills, including flying. And the opening scenes of Murder on the Ballarat Train come as no surprise given the title of the story.
All three novels provide the back stories of a number of characters who appear in later books in the series. While they can be read as standalone works, the background knowledge that comes from reading them in order adds an extra dimension to the experience. This compilation has been produced for the Christmas/summer market and would make great holiday reading. An added bonus is the depth of research that goes into each work, transporting you back in time to a Melbourne that has all but vanished. The flapper fashions and cocktails lend a glamorous allure but the gritty social realism hits home and provides a meaty balance to the writing. That said these are definitely works of fantasy and invention.
Kerry Greenwood is the author of more than forty novels, six non-fiction works and the editor of two collections. Other novels in the Phryne Fisher series are Death on the Victoria Dock, Blood and Circuses, The Green Mill Murder, Ruddy Gore, Urn Burial, Raisins and Almonds, Death Before Wicket, Away with the Fairies, Murder in Montparnasse, The Castlemaine Murders, Queen of the Flowers, Death by Water, Murder in the Dark, A Question of Death: An illustrated Phryne Fisher treasury, Murder on a Midsummer Night and, most recently, Dead Man’s Chest. She is also the author of 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.
Title: Introducing the Honourable Phryne Fisher
Author: Kerry Greenwood
Category: Fiction – crime and mystery
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication Date: December 2010