Historical mystery series set in the 1920s Australia.

Publication year: 1995
Format: Audio
Publisher: Bolinda Publishing Pty. Ltd.
Narrator: Stephanie Daniel
Running Time: 6 hrs and 53 minutes

In the seventh Phryne Fisher book, she and her friend Bunji are going to the Hinkler gala performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Ruddigore when they stumble on a group of thugs attacking an old Chinese woman. Phryne and her friend save the old woman, and Phryne gets a date with a Chinese man, the old woman’s grandson. Soon Phryne notices that Chinese men are following her.

When Phryne and Bunji reach the gala, they enjoy the preposterous opera performed by His Majesty’s Theater. However, the leading man seems to stumble and soon Phryne hears the he’s been poisoned. Another man takes his place but he is poisoned as well. It’s clear that something is really wrong. The police is summoned and Phryne agrees to investigate as well. However, some other strange things are happening in the theater and the actors are convinces that a ghost is haunting them.

Also, Phryne befriends a young boy who yearns to be an actor. Unfortunately, he comes from an abusive home and isn’t likely to be able to live his dream.

This time Phryne immerses herself in the life of the opera with the fickle actors and actresses, and the undervalued technical staff. Those characters are all new, even though the manager of the group is Phryne’s old friend. The new characters are pretty flashy and most of them are quite egoistical. Some of them really believe in the ghost and Phryne even sees a medium. The plot is more convoluted than in the previous books, perhaps inspired by the opera.

Greenwood tackles again hard issues; this time they are domestic abuse and racism. Abuse is mostly seen in the poor boy’s face and his remarks. When Phryne gets more involved with the Chinese, she notices how the Chinese people are treated by the white people; phrases like ”heathen chinks” which are said without really thinking about it. Later in the book, a Chinese man tells Phryne a little about the history of the Chinese in Australia and how the Chinese will have to band together and how they will have to appear humble to the white people so that they aren’t attacked. Phryne points out that many women also need to appear humble and even stupid to protect themselves.

Greenwood also highlights the problem that actresses face: even though both men and women need to look young to stay in the theater world, women seem to have a lot admirers and if they don’t sleep with any of them men, they are seen as cold and heartless. And yet, if the women do sleep with an admirer or two, they might get pregnant which can destroy their career.

I’m not familiar with Gilbert & Sullivan or opera at all, still the book was fun and a great addition to the series and I’m curious to see how the series continues.