Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Unnatural Habits - Kerry Greenwood

The Hon Phryne Fisher is beautiful, rich & a brilliant detective. She lives in 1920s Melbourne, drives a Hispano-Suiza, has an eclectic group of friends & adopted family, and is able to fell a villain with wit & charm or if that fails, her skill with a pistol.

One night, Phryne saves a young reporter, Polly Kettle, from a beating in Little Lonsdale Street. She discovers that Polly is on the track of a story about young girls vanishing from the Magdalene Laundry at the Good Shepherd Convent. The Laundry was a place where unmarried, pregnant girls were sent in disgrace, worked unmercifully hard & then, when they were due to give birth, sent to a nursing home run by cruel Mrs Ryan. All the time the fact of their disgrace was dinned into them & their babies were taken away for adoption. Three of these girls sent to Mrs Ryan's have disappeared. Have they been kidnapped or have they run away? When Polly herself goes missing shortly afterwards, Phryne investigates.

With the help of Inspector Jack Robinson, her maid, Dot, adopted daughters, Ruth & Jane, new arrival Tinker & Communist taxi drivers Bert & Cec, Phryne infiltrates the Convent. She discovers the horrors the girls suffered there, disowned by their families & at the mercy of a rigidly moralistic Church establishment. Phryne's title & her impeccable style give her access to the Bishop's Palace, an exclusive gentleman's club in Melbourne & the homes of the Camberwell middle-class. The stories of cruelty & neglect that Phryne uncovers during the investigation daunt her spirit for a time but she is determined to find the missing girls, expose the scandal of the Magdalene Laundry & stop an evil trade in young girls that begins at the Williamstown docks & ends in the Middle East.

Phryne is the ultimate fantasy figure. She has everything she could want but she inherited her wealth after an impoverished childhood so she appreciates it. She drove an ambulance during WWI & her politics are impeccably liberal & non-discriminatory. Non-racist, non-sexist, inclusive of everyone regardless of race, creed or sexual preference, she's really a 21st century woman in the 1920s. The detail of Phryne's life, from the food to the gorgeous clothes & her love of Jicky perfume, is a lot of fun. The reader can sense Kerry Greenwood's delight in her creation's sense of style & luxury. Her adventures are always a delight & I love visiting early 20th century Melbourne with such a stylish guide.

6 comments:

  1. Oh I adore Kerry Greenwood's books, both Phryne and the other series (the name of which completely escapes me now!) but the library only has one book from each series and having looked online, the books cost a lot more than I would generally pay for a mystery novel!
    SO frustrating!
    Hope the girls are well and enjoying heading into spring.

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    1. I think I enjoy the Corinna Chapman series even more than Phryne but both series are a lot of fun. I'm sorry they're hard (or expensive ) for you to get hold of. Are they available as ebooks? Maybe secondhand is the way to go. The girls are very well. Phoebe's on my lap at the moment. We';re all enjoying the warmer weather but not looking forward to the heights of summer.

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  2. I really need to get back to this series! I am a bit behind and getting further behind with each new book!

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    1. They are fun, easy reads, aren't they?

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  3. I've been slowly reading my way through this series. Love Phryne and her friends and the adventures they have.

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    1. It's one of my favourite mystery series but I think I enjoy the clothes & the food as much as the mystery plot.

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