Saturday, December 06, 2008
Murder On A Midsummer Night by Kerry Greenwood
Crow's Nest, Allen and Unwin, 2008
We all thought it would never happen - Phryne Fisher in 1929? The author said it was always going to be 1928, because that was the year she knew about. But sooner or later the year had to end, didn’t it? Phryne had crammed so much into the months between May and December 1928 that it was going to be impossible to move on and the chronology was looking distinctly strange. Still, when Murder in the Dark ended on New Year’s Eve, many of Kerry Greenwood’s fans, myself included, wondered if this was the proverbial It.
Fortunately, it wasn’t. It should be possible to cram another 17 adventures into 1929, if the author doesn’t get sick of it, before then.
I discovered Phryne Fisher after reading an article in the Melbourne Age. The heroine was beautiful, rich, smart, independent and zoomed around Melbourne in her fast red car. And she lived in St Kilda, not far from where I spent my childhood and still within walking distance of where I live now. The combination of Melbourne, history and mystery was perfect for me. They were fun, unlike some grim thrillers I’ve read. I became hooked - and the novels have become comfort reading which I read and re-read. These are what I think of as “whodunnits”, rather than “cosies” - you really CAN’T describe as a cosy something that speeds along as these do.
While standing in the signing queue for this one, I chatted with an elderly gentleman who told me that he could remember the 1930s, which were not too different from the 20s, and that these novels got it absolutely right. Nice to know, though the flavour of 1928 Melbourne always felt right to me.
In January 1929, Phryne Fisher, that rich and elegant private detective, is planning her birthday celebration, not another job, but a young junkshop and antique dealer has been found dead on St Kilda beach and his mother is positive it was murder, not suicide as the coroner has concluded. Time for Miss Fisher to check it out. She is also busy on a case centred around a recently-deceased old lady’s illegitimate child who might have inherited money from her, but needs to be found.
Bright young things, ouija boards, actors, Williamstown, Australian soldiers in wartime Palestine, a missing treasure - it’s all there,and more. We learn about furniture trends in the Melbourne of the 20s and meet a relative of Phryne’s friend, the Communist taxi driver Cec Yates.
As usual, there’s plenty of food and gorgeous clothes and it ends with a party. Kerry Greenwood loves her designer clothes and delicious food. She writes about both with enormous enjoyment and brings this enjoyment across to her readers.
I didn’t work out the killer, but even if I had, the story is such fun that I wouldn’t have cared. If you can re-read a mystery, as I do these, it must be good. And I started re-reading this one as soon as I’d finished it.
That says it all. Buy it. You won’t be disappointed.