Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Phryne Fisher wins again!

Unnatural Habits                         
By Kerry Greenwood
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0123-3
A 2013 HC from Poisoned Pen
Press, 280 pages

I confess it’s a cause for celebration when another Phryne Fisher adventure shows up. Yes, the publisher sent this novel in the hope that I’d give it a review. Yes, I have written elsewhere that I love the Phryne Fisher crime novels. The Honorable Phryne Fisher is an aristocratic displaced single woman living on her inheritance in Melbourne, Australia where she serves the downtrodden and criminally beset. Her relations with a few coppers is excellent and she has over the years, taken to her bosom four needy souls, Dot who became Phryne’s secretary and factotum, and two teenaged girls, Jane and Ruth, rescued from serious poverty. Now a fourth, a boy named Tinker, a lad of unusual skills for one so young has joined the menage. Life on the streets and waterfronts will do that, I suppose.

In the early Twentieth Century, when the series is set, women as emancipated as is the Hon. Miss Fisher, are rare indeed. Her wealth is a great help, but so too are her attitudes and her diverse talents. Distant and poor relation of the aristocracy of the UK, the Great War elevated her to wealth and high society. Bored, she decamped to Australia, after a stint as an ambulance driver in the war. She is, in this outing, the mistress of a monstrously wealth Chinese merchant named Lin Chung.

The plot centers on the mysterious disappearances of small blond girls from the city. The question of why, since no bodies are discovered, is what has been done with them. At the same time, questions are arising as to the treatment of young pregnant and unmarried women by the local Catholic church.

This novel is darker and grittier than most of the previous stories in this series, but Fisher makes do in a most forthright fashion, focusing her justifiable wrath on kidnappers and religious zealots. Smoothly written as always, the pace is jaunty the scenes are well illuminated and the novel is thoroughly satisfying. I live in the hope for more adventures with this most excellent female investigator.