Murder on a Midsummer Night – Kerry Greenwood

One of my other obsessions (apart from books, chocolate…) is Netflix (other tv services are available, but probably not as cheap). Through searching for something else to watch, we found the Miss Fisher mysteries. In case you have not yet found it, this is an Australian series about a wealthy woman private detective, set in the 1920s, rejoicing in the name of Phryne Fisher. She has many unlikely adventures as she solves cases of murder and mayhem in Melbourne, while wearing amazing outfits which would normally preclude climbing walls and advanced self defence.

I searched out the first three books in the series of Phryne Fisher mysteries which I had bought on a whim a while ago from The Book People. They are great! The first three books are quick reads, setting up the characters and situation of detection and crime solving. They are not immensely challenging in terms of mysteries, but the solutions are satisfying in terms of character. Set variously on trains and planes, as well as the neighbourhoods of Melbourne, they seem fairly correct in terms of transport, fashion and behaviour for the period. The characters overlap with those in the TV series, but as you would expect are more complex and rounded. Some of the relationships differ, but essentially these are the same stories. The early books are lightweight, enjoyable reads, with interesting insights into the time and places in which they are set. I enjoy reading about the scandalous progress of Phryne as she, together with her well paid and interesting household, solve mysteries. They are far more detailed than the TV versions as you would expect, given a greater range of character possibilities and setting. They are variously set on trains and early planes, on the basis that Phryne is equally at home wherever she finds herself.

The later books, which I have borrowed from the library in two cases, become more complex and frankly, interesting. In Death Before Wicket there is an interesting sidelight on women’s choices when their husband becomes unable or unwilling to support them. There is an interesting view of academic life, while circumstances and characters combine to comment on bohemian life on the fringes. These are not great physiological works, and it is nearly impossible to get bogged down in plot or setting. This is a funny book, with some adult themes.

Murder on a Midsummer Night        Cocaine Blues TV tie-in edition     9781741140958.jpg

Murder on a Midsummer Night  is a later book, and boasts two mysteries which Phryne is asked to solve, each of which necessitate bringing in various members of her circle.  Thus the Comrades of the taxi join forces with charitable ladies, a seance which succeeds a wake becomes deliberately  spooky, and family splits get mixed with scandal. I really enjoyed this more substantial novel in a good series, and found it more challenging and therefore more satisfying. There is still the same eye for clothes, decor and character, but this book presents them in a more significant way as contributing to the novel overall. It is not great literature, but is nonetheless worth reading for pleasure. It even boasts a detailed Bibliography, surely rare in a novel, but it is very interesting. Another point worthy of note; most of the action takes place in boiling hot, uncomfortable weather. In January. It’s Australia….

These books (and author!) have even got their own website:http://phrynefisher.com/ which lists all the books.

So if you want an unusual read, and plenty of books in a series, try tracking down these books (or TV Programmes!)

Oh, and the other big book of the day, Go Set A Watchman?. Husband went and bought me a copy, and so far so good. The general impression from articles and interviews with early readers suggests that the overall novel is not so strong, but the writing seems to me very good; including a very funny incident on a sleeper train….

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3 thoughts on “Murder on a Midsummer Night – Kerry Greenwood

  1. Looking forward to hearing your verdict on Harper Lee! Gwenda says she has only read poor reviews, but I haven’t seen any yet and so want to like it! Incidentally, thought I had left a comment re Alice Munro the other day but perhaps I did something wrong … She is a favourite of mine though I don’t know the collection you’ve got.

  2. I’m trying to get to it! I think that I read To kill a mocking bird in defence because it was so widely read in schools (and I had to teach it!) but I also saw the stage version in Newcastle a few months ago.
    I cannot find your comment on Munro, but that may be the system’s fault. Just read your blog about your next book, which looks as if it’s going to be really interesting (as always). Good luck with that.

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