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25 July 2012

Kerry Greenwood: Cocaine Blues, Phryne Fisher #1

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The Delectable and Divine Detective - the Hon Phryne Fisher
The Hon Phryne Fisher is a unique, beautiful, stylish, sexy and larger than life character who romps through adventure after adventure in Melbourne in 1928 and 1929.  The descriptions of the time, fashions and the place are accurate and delightful.

The series has recently been released on Kindle in the U.S. so I am posting this review to encourage Americans to read this classic and addictive series.

Let me start by telling you something about Phryne (pronounced Fry-knee). She was born in Melbourne to impoverished descendants of an aristocratic and wealthy UK family. "I was born in very poor circumstances. Bitterly poor. Then (due to the Great War) several people died and I was whisked away into fashion and wealth. I enjoy it greatly." But Phryne was not content to live a life of wealth and luxury in England - she wanted action in her life and spent time in the seedy parts of Paris before heading back from England to Australia to help a family friend.

In the first book in the series we see her arrive in Melbourne and immediately assert her independence. Within hours of arrival she connects with a couple of taxi drivers who become her long time helpers, books into the Hotel Windsor with dozens of trunks full of the latest fashion, and goes out looking for more fashion. There she meets and helps a distraught young woman, Dorothy, planning to kill her employer's lecherous son with a kitchen knife. After cleverly helping Dorothy to embarrass the son without any injury, she asks her to become her maid. Dorothy quickly becomes Phryne's maid, personal assistant and close confident throughout the series.

Phryne then starts her many adventures and investigations. While set in the 1920's, Phryne is a very modern heroine who is always the centre of attention, relishes every one of life's moments and leaves a trail of satisfied lovers in her wake.

While much of Cocaine Blues is character development and scene setting, she starts her career as a private detective by tracking down the king of cocaine in Melbourne, a backstreet abortionist and a poisoner. In the course of her investigations she meets Detective Inspector Jack Robinson, who is intially suspicious of her activities but later on gains great respect for Thryne's skills and helps her with many investigations.

WARNING - Phryne Fisher books are addictive. When you have read one, you will want to read more.  In her next books she adds to her delightful "family" of helpers by setting up house (with housekeepers, cat and dog etc), extends her network of police contacts and satisfied lovers and even rescues 2 teenage children from white slavery and adopts them.  Please read on.....

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