Tuesday, October 05, 2010
DEAD MAN’S CHEST By Kerry Greenwood. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 2010
When Kerry Greenwood created the rich, beautiful, intelligent Jazz Age sleuth, Phryne Fisher, she was expecting the series to last for about two books. Because she knew all about 1928, that was the year in which it was to be set, permanently.
Seventeen books later, the author has finally had to move to January 1929. Phryne Fisher has returned to coastal town Queenscliff, scene of her second adventure, Flying Too High. That time she was in Queenscliff as part of a kidnapping case, and stayed at the gorgeous Queenscliff Hotel (where, because of the novel, I used to have lunch once a year on the veranda, looking out to sea).
This time Phryne is back with her faithful maid and companion, Dot Williams, her two adopted daughters Ruth and Jane and her dog Molly, and they’re staying in a borrowed holiday home. There will, of course, be absolutely no investigations!
But where Phryne Fisher goes, mystery follows – or, in this case, precedes. When the family arrives, the live-in servants, Mr and Mrs Johnson, are missing. No property is missing except food, and valuables have been stashed away for safety. But the Johnsons’ furniture is gone and a removalist was seen arriving at the house.
This gives Ruth, the would-be cook, a chance to make meals for the family while Phryne investigates the disappearance. Queenscliff is never dull, with the missing couple, a group of surrealists next door, a nosy old lady across the road, who might have seen something, a historical film being made down on the beach and some nasty goings-on nearby.
Phryne investigates, but she takes a step back in this novel and lets other characters come to the fore. She also has a new sidekick to add to her entourage; it will be interesting to see where he goes.
As always, the story is a lot of fun, with adventure, baddies, plenty of lovingly-detailed descriptions of meals and Phryne’s clothes. This author knows her era, but doesn’t overwhelm you with it.
If you’ve been following the series, go and buy it. If you haven’t, go back and read the rest – then buy it!