Kerry Greenwood’s evergreen protagonist Phryne Fisher, femme fatale private investigator is a woman who knows what she wants and how to get. She has a taste for the finer things in life, be they food, drink, apparel, cars or men.
“Phryne was always willing to make appointments for passion, but hadn’t a second to spare for jealousy, scenes or matrimony. Even her father had given up on finding a suitable husband for Phryne.”
What makes such a character all the more appealing is the setting in which we find her – St Kilda, Victoria Australia in the 1920s. She speaks her mind and uses her enviable charms to get away with doing so. She takes a somewhat liberal attitude to the achievement of justice for those causes she takes under her wing. Although Phryne is considered ‘fast’ by many, she has a strong moral code very much ahead of her time. She dotes on her two adopted daughters and is the perfect host to all those that enter her household.
Although Queen of the Flowers is a very enjoyable, escapist summer read, one should not assume it follows that Kerry Greenwood’s writing style is pedestrian.
Greenwood has a real knack for setting a scene through dry observations from the opinionated mind of her protagonist. Her descriptions of other character’s appearances often brought a smile to my face due to their originality and sense of whimsy.
“Five minutes later the door slammed open and into the room came the small Irish girl, carrying an unpolished tray on which reposed unmatching glasses and a decanter of some dark, sinister fluid, a small, fat, choleric dog hauled along by a small, fat, choleric boy, and Mrs Weston, who looked like a tragedy queen who had been told very bad news while being dragged through four hedges backwards.”
There is a certain ‘Alice in Wonderland’ quality about the goings on in the world of Phyrne Fisher that I found amusing. I also found I shared bond with Miss Fisher, in having had nothing but bad experiences with camels.
“Phryne had no utter objection to camels as a species but she could not like them. A creature whose only motive in life was to lure a human close enough to spit a pound of semi-digested grass in their eye had a certain Juvenalian frankness but was not comfortable company.”
For all the humour and irony, there are deeper undercurrents artfully woven into the fabric of this mystery novel. Poignant excerpts of poetry set the scene at the beginning of each chapter and a series of letters written many years before are gradually revealed to the reader.
While Kerry Greenwood’s enduring Phryne Fisher mystery series will not move mountains or inspire life paths, its uniqueness is unquestionable. I highly recommend a serving of Phryne for an enjoyable escape from the daily grind.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5
Genre: Mystery, Crime-Detective, Historical
About the Author: Kerry Greenwood has worked as a folk singer, factory hand, director, producer, translator, costume-maker, cook and is currently a solicitor. When she is not writing, she works as a locum solicitor for the Victorian Legal Aid. Kerry has written twenty novels, a number of plays, is an award-winning children’s writer and has edited and contributed to several anthologies. For more information see Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher website.
This review counts towards participation in the 2011 Aussie Author Challenge.