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Enter the Fabulous World of Phryne Fisher

Etinosa Agbonlahor works in the editorial department at Simon & Schuster. She enjoys watching British tv and will read anything that’s both educational and entertaining. She writes for and curates the African Book Review.

A wondrous assortment of silk slips, scented baths, handcrafted cocktails, glaces composées, dreamy meals, and equally dreamy lovers, all set in bustling 1920s Australia, makes up the lively, colorful world of lady detective extraordinaire, Phryne Fisher.

I first encountered Phryne while browsing through Netflix looking for something reminiscent of The Mrs Bradley Mysteries, and stumbled upon Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. I was very quickly captivated by Phryne’s daring, flapper-like pizzazz as she worked with (and around) the police to solve the mysterious death of a rich relative. The series is great and does an amazing job of bringing Australia in the late 1920s to life, yet the research author Kerry Greenwood poured into creating her Phryne Fisher books (many even have a bibliography) makes them even richer and more evocative than the television series.

Phryne is a zesty woman without guilt and with remarkable self-esteem, not because she’s had an easy life, but because she’s survived months at the sidelines of a battlefield, manning an ambulance and tending the wounded while shells exploded around her, and because she’s survived the death of a close sister, an abusive lover, and much more. So it is with grace (and diplomacy to the skies) that she dresses in the finest silk, eats at the best restaurants, drives a beautiful Hispano-Suiza, adopts spunky children from unfortunate circumstances, and turns down marriage proposals but retains a gorgeous lover (while remaining good friends with his astute communist wife, Camellia).  Phryne is smart, sexy, and independent, with enough experience to withstand the foibles that undermine each of these characteristics. And as though that weren’t enough, her quick wits (and Beretta) help her solve the array of mysteries that seem to pop up wherever she goes.

In Queen of the Flowers, Phryne has been chosen to lead St. Kilda’s first Flower Parade as the Queen of Flowers. When one of her flower maidens—a “fast” girl named Rose—goes missing, Phryne sets aside festival preparations to investigate. Things become much more complicated when her adopted daughter, Ruth, also goes missing after learning the true identity of her father. With great finesse, some help from her family, and her Beretta, Phryne confronts everything from brothels to elephants, odious families, and an old lover in order to find her daughter.

Queen of the Flowers is an evenly paced affair that meanders through the quirks and curiosities of upper-class Melbourne, a somber graveyard in Brighton, wet Orkney Island, and finally a gambling boat in the middle of the sea. And like many of Phryne’s mysteries, its joy lies not in the mystery alone but in the lush details Greenwoods teases out, from the cocktails made by Mr. Butler (Phryne’s aptly named butler) to socialist workers Bert and Cec who put aside their reservations to help Phryne find Ruth, and of course in Phryne herself.


The Queen of the Flowers
Kerry Greenwood

Phryne is a zesty woman without guilt and with remarkable self-esteem, not because she’s had an easy life, but because she’s survived months at the sidelines of a battlefield, manning an ambulance and tending the wounded while shells exploded around her, and because she’s survived the death of a close sister, an abusive lover, and much more. So it is with grace (and diplomacy to the skies) that she dresses in the finest silk, eats at the best restaurants, drives a beautiful Hispano-Suiza, adopts spunky children from unfortunate circumstances, and turns down marriage proposals but retains a gorgeous lover (while remaining good friends with his astute communist wife, Camellia)

MENTIONED IN:

5 of the Greatest Literary Sleuths Since Sherlock Holmes

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 30, 2014

Enter the Fabulous World of Phryne Fisher

By Etinosa Agbonlahor | August 14, 2014

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