The 19th book in the mystery series.

Publication year: 2012
Format: Audio
Narrator: Stephanie Daniel
Running Time: 9 hrs 56 min

Phryne and her friend doctor McMillan are going to the Adventuress’ Club when they notice that a couple of thugs are attacking a young woman and they intervene. She turns out to be Polly Kettle, a journalist, who is hungry for her first big story. She’s investigating young pregnant women who have disappeared from a laundry. The laundry belongs to the local Catholic convent and the workers are unmarried, pregnant young women who have been sent to the convent because they are either an embarrassment to their families or their families have disowned them and they have no other place to go to. The disappeared girls were heavily pregnant and they haven’t turned up in brothels or in the morgue. Then miss Kettle herself is kidnapped. A couple of men wrestled her into a big black car but the witness isn’t able to say more, so the police can’t find her. So, Phryne starts to look for them all.

Some of the male journalists don’t care for the way that Polly wants to become an investigative reporter, not just a woman journalist reporting society news. One of men had even started to look into the disappearances but Polly apparently stole the story from him. Also, Polly’s mother doesn’t approve of Polly’s career and doesn’t seem to be terribly worried about her daughter but Polly’s father is frantic. Everyone agrees that her investigation could be dangerous. As it turned out to be.

The familiar cast returns. Dot advices Phyrne about religious matters. Phryne’s sister Eliza has come out of the closet and lives with her girlfriend lady Alice. They are trying to help the unfortunate poor and Phryne turns to them for advice, but they haven’t heard of the girls. Phryne’s adopted daughters Ruth and Jane also help her during the investigation. Tinker from the previous book returns, also. Currently, he lives with Phryne but is having trouble adjusting to a house full of women.

I felt that this book is grimmer in tone than the previous books, mostly because of the subject matter. Phyrne takes us to the poorer side of Melbourne where people have a lot of kids but can’t feed them properly, and so they are neglected. Also, the fate of unmarried pregnant girls tends to be grim. Some of them have been raped and even their own families don’t believe them when they tell about.

The book shows the convent and its laundry in a very bad light. The nuns are at best uninterested in the welfare of the girls and are determined get as much work out of them as possible, at worse they beat the girls at will and keep them in prison like environment. They are discouraged even from talking to each other and have numbers instead of names. I have no idea if that sort of thing actually happened.

However, there are lighter scenes, too, especially when Phryne goes undercover to solve the mystery.

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