Kerry Greenwood

A new Phryne Fisher mystery.

Publication year: 2013
Format: Audio
Running time: 11 hours and 22 minutes
Narrator: Stephanie Daniel

Orchestral director Hugh Tregennis has been murdered, with a stack of musical notes stuffed down his throat. Inspector Jack Robinson is looking for Phryne’s help because the policeman knows nothing about singers. Phryne agrees to help. Unfortunately, it turns out that the Tregennis was universally hated and nearly anyone in the choir could have killed him. Phryne promptly joins the choir and goes undercover.

Phryne has also some more personal troubles. Mathematician Rupert Sheffield is giving a lecture about the art of deduction and out of sheer curiosity Phryne attends. Rupert turns out to be very handsome but very rude and downright insufferably arrogant. But Phryne’s dear friend John Wilson is Rupert’s aide and head over heels in love with him. Rupert doesn’t seem to even notice poor John’s devotion and Phryne decides to educate Rupert.

This one somewhat rewrites Phyrne’s experiences as an ambulance driver in WWI. In a previous book (Murder in Montparnasse), we’re told about Phryne’s first love, after WWI. But apparently, Phryne had a fling with John Wilson just before her first love who was a famous Parisian painter. John was a young doctor who did his best to keep his patients alive. While he’s mostly gay, during the war both he and Phryne hook up, just to feel alive in the middle of death. They parted on good terms and quickly fall into bed together.

This was another somewhat unlikely story, but very entertaining. The familiar cast is back and the new characters are good, too. Most of Phryne’s time is spent in the choir, practicing along with the others. Some of the choir members are large personalities and very entertaining.

The fourth book in the Corinna Chapman cosy mysteries.

Publication year: 2007
Format: Audio
Narrator: Louise Siversen
Running Time: 9 hrs 3 mins

These books are lighter in tone than the Phryne Fisher books, but have also an interesting and entertaining cast. This time, there’s another commonality: history. In the Phryne books we often get to know about some interesting historical event and the same thing happens in this book, too, when Corinna’s PI boyfriend takes on a case which has to do with the Holocaust.

Corinna is a baker and runs the Earthly Delights bakery. A new franchise bakery, Best Fresh, has opened its door and started cutting prices. However, Corinna isn’t really worried because her customers are loyal and besides her products are much tastier, which she discovers after she buys some of Best Fresh’s muffins and breads, undercover of course. She’s much more concerned when her gorgeous boyfriend Daniel neglects her – because a stunning woman is apparently now living in his flat. But her troubles don’t end there. Someone is apparently poisoning people in her part of Melbourne and her witch friend Meroe is also in trouble. Samhain is approaching and it’s the turn of the Melbourne witches to host a large gathering of witches. However, Meroe is a solitary person so she resents that and especially because one of the incoming witches is a bad seed.

Daniel is also working on a case which involves Greek Jewish people during WWII. The otherwise quite fluffy story contains some stark history and horrible things humans have done to other humans. But it also has a couple of stories about people’s quiet heroism and hope to balance the awful stuff. Still, this plotline makes the book far less fluffy.

Fortunately, the jealousy subplot isn’t a long one, since I don’t like them.

The book has several plotlines and sometimes they don’t mesh very well together. Unfortunately, I also didn’t care for the ending. Otherwise, the book was as delightful as the others in the series. Corinna, Jason who is a former drug addict and now her apprentice, Daniel, Meroe, and the rest of the cast are just so entertaining. It’s a feel-good reading, or listening in my case. Oh and I love the fact that Corinna isn’t conventionally beautiful.

The third book in the cozy mystery series set in Melbourne.

Publication year: 2006
Format: Audio
Narrator: Louise Siversen
Running Time: 9 hrs
Corinna Chapman is a former accountant and now she’s a baker and owns the Earthly Delights bakery. Life is good: she has a lovely lover, Daniel, lots of friends, and business is good. But then two things disturb her peace: her mother is coming to town and wants to see her, and a couple of her friends have apparently been poisoned.

Corinna’s parents are hippies who live in a commune outside Melbourne. They were quite neglectful parents and barely noticed when Corinna’s grandmother took her away when she was just five years old. Not surprisingly, Corinna resents her parents and don’t want anything to do with them. However, her father, called Sunlight, has gone missing and her mother, Starshine, is frantic and demands that Corinna should find her father. Reluctantly, Corinna agrees. Fortunately, Daniel is a private detective. Corinna is forced to confront her feelings towards her parents and her past. Starshine is quite a manipulative woman and she seems to loath Corinna’s weight.

Greenwood also addresses our Western culture’s obsession with weight. It turns out that Kayle and Gossamer have not been poisoned, after all, but that they have taken herbal tea which should work as a weight-loss product. While trying to find out who is selling the tea, Corinna stumbles upon a fanatical cult who is trying to convince people that God himself hates fat people. The cult also sells its services as a weight-loss program.

Helping Corinna are the usual cast which include her apprentice the ex-junkie Jason, her best friend the witch, and assorted cats. I really enjoyed this book, just as much as the previous ones. It’s full of interesting characters and references to pop culture.

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.

The second book in the mystery series.

Publication year: 2005
Format: Audio
Narrator: Louise Siversen
Running Time: 9 hrs

Corinna Chapman used to be an accountant but now she’s a baker and even though she has to wake up at four in the morning she still prefers running Earthly Delights. Her life is good: she has a gorgeous new lover, her new apprentice seems to be supernaturally talented at inventing new muffins, and her bakery is doing well.

However, when Corinna is given some excellent chocolates from the nearby chocolate chop, Heavenly Delights, she bites into chili sauce. Then breathless Juliette Lefebvre, the Belgian chocolatier, explains that someone has been sabotaging her chocolates. Apparently, someone has put in chili or soybean sauce in some of her chocolates which has angered her clients. Juliette hires Daniel to find out just who is behind it all and Corinne, of course, assists him. She finds out a lot about the chocolate trade and how the sweets are made, in addition to getting to know the people who work in the chocolate shop. It turns out that one of the workers is missing.

Also, Daniel had a run-in with a “prophet” who is called Darren the God-boy. Darren had kidnapped a girl and Daniel had been hired to get her back. Now, Darren is in prison but he says that he’s been possessed by evil spirits. Additionally, the house where Corinna and all of her neighbors live in, gets two new residents.

Heavenly Pleasures is a delightful and charming book. The mysteries aren’t the main draw, but the characters and also the humorous writing. Corinna is a warmhearted and confident and she has a great sense of humor. She’s also fat which is still quite a rarity in heroines.

Corinne’s young apprentice Jason is a former drug addict and Corinne is still worried that he will start using again. He loves baking and inventing new tastes. Daniel is a former soldier and now he’s private detective. He’s devoted to Corinne and they are a very cute couple. However, Daniel has a hero complex which causes some trouble for them. Her best friend Meroe is a witch. And then, of course, there are the many cats who all have their own personalities.

18th book in the series

Publication year: 2010
Format: Audio
Narrator: Stephanie Daniel
Running Time: 9 hrs and 25 minutes

Phryne, her maid Dot, her adoptive daughters Jane and Ruth, and their dog Molly are on vacation on Queenscliff where Phryne has rented a house. The house’s owner says that Mr. and Mrs. Johnson are supposed to greet Phryne’s group and serve them during their stay. However, when they arrive, the Johnsons aren’t there and also all the food and even furniture are gone. However, there’s no sign of struggle or burglary. Phryne asks the neighbors but they don’t know anything, either. The Johnson’s seem to be decent folk and they have had a week’s holiday but they are supposed to be back already. The mystery deepens when Phryne finds the Johnson’s beloved dog Gaston starving and filthy. Also, a Phantom Snipper is haunting the village. He cuts off girl’s hair suddenly and nobody has been able to even identify him.

Fortunately for Phryne, Ruth wants to be a cook and she’s happy to try her hand in the kitchen, first stoking it from the start and then cooking for the whole party.

The characters are again delightful. In addition to the familiar cast, there’s Eddie, also called Tinker, a young boy who is considered lazy but whom Phryne quickly deduces only needs someone to trust him and treat him right, and he quickly becomes devoted to Phryne. One of the neighbors is a very disagreeable old woman but she might know something.

The mystery is pretty light this time, however.

The first book in the Corinna Chapman mystery series.

Publication year: 2007
Format: Audio
Narrator: Louise Siversen
Running Time: 10 hrs

Once, Corinna wanted to become an accountant. In order to finance her studies she became a baker and now she owns her own baker, Earthly Delights, in Melbourne. However, her bakery is not in the best of places and so she starts the book giving CPR to a junkie who has taken an overdose right in behind her door. When the EMTs save the addict, she turns out to be less than grateful. But the Soup Run’s tall, dark and handsome man Daniel turns out to be very grateful, and interested in Corinne, to boot.

Someone sends threatening letters to every woman in Corinna’s building calling them “scarlet women” and unsurprisingly, they want to find out who is behind it. Also, someone is poisoning the drugs which the addicts use and several addicts have already died. Daniel wants to find out the guilty party.

I really enjoyed the characters in this book. Jason is a young drug addict who comes to Corinna’s door wanting a job and she gives him one, sweeping the floors. She doesn’t pry into his life, enough though she wants to, and slowly they start to trust each other. Meroe is a witch and she runs her own business, the Sibyl’s Cave. She and Corinna a great friends. Even though Corinna is mostly self-employed, she has to young women who sell her break when she’s not in the shop. Kylie and Gossamer dream of being actresses and have to maintain a very low weight. They change their hair color almost daily and behave otherwise like teenagers. Then there’s Dionysius Monk. He’s one of Corinna’s neighbors, a former classics professor and still obsessed with classical history.

This is a great beginning for a new mystery series.

17th book in the series.

Publication year: 2008
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Stephanie Daniel
Running Time: 8 hrs and 37 minutes

The year 1929 begins with a heatwave, at least in Melbourne. Phryne’s 29th birthday is coming up and she’s starting to plan for it. But then, Phryne’s sister Eliza brings to her a distraught woman, Mrs. Manifold. Her only son has died and the police are saying that it’s a suicide. However, Mrs. Manifold is convinced that someone has murdered her son. Phyrne agrees to investigate and soon plunges into the life of Augustine Manifold. He was an antique dealer and good at his job. He knew just how to find the hidden treasures from any estate or garage sale, and he also hired to capable people; a girl for his shop and a carpenter who is a genius in his job. He was also excited about the future and telling people that soon he can buy his mother a house of her own. Phryne has to get to know his friends and she isn’t impressed; she thinks that they are not only obnoxious but frightful.

She’s also investigating another matter. A lawyer brings to her a case where an old, wealthy woman has died and left her fortunes to her children, divided equally between “the issue of her body”. She has four living children but the lawyer suspects that Mrs. Bonnetti had another child before marrying her husband. Phryne agrees to look into it, discreetly. This is not an easy task, because Mrs. Bonnetti was old and her possible child would be quite old, too. Phryne just thinks of this as a challenge.

This time Phryne involves some of her friends more than usual. Dot’s knowledge of all things domestic is particularly useful. Phryne’s adoptive daughter Jane wants to become a doctor, which has been established before, but here she works like a forensic pathologist, figuring out if Augustine died at the sea or not. Pretty gruesome work for a 12-year old but she’s just fascinated!

We also get small snippets of Cec an Bert’s adventures during the war. However, the purpose of these small scenes doesn’t come clear until the very end.

This is a highly enjoyable Phryne mystery with all of the familiar cast running around.

The sixteenth book in the series.

Publication year: 2005
Format: Audio
Narrator: Stephanie Daniel
Running Time: 8 hrs and 20 minutes

Christmas has come to Melbourne and the Fisher household is spending it in relative quiet. However, Phryne is thinking of attending the Last Good Party of 1928 which is going to be organized by two of Phryne’s old friends, Isabella and Gerard Templar who are called the Golden Twins because they look perfect and are rich. They’ve come to Australia and Phryne suspects that they might be running away from something. However, when Phryne received threatening letters which warn her not to attend the party, she of course decides to go. Then a mysterious Christmas present is left on her doorstep and it turns out to have a deadly snake it. Fortunately, Phryne’s cat Ember is nearby and kills it efficiently. Now, Phryne is determined to find out who is behind it all.

Unfortunately, her Chinese lover Lin Chung can’t join her because he’s going to a funeral so she’s going alone and meeting interesting new people. Dot and Mr. Butler visit her every day but Phryne stays alone in the Warribee Manor house in the luxurious Iris room. The house is old but has been renovated in a way that horrifies Dot and Phryne. Phryne gets to meet a lot of new people, including female polo players who are at first ridiculed for wanting to play in such a manly sport, a Goat lady and her goat, and several handsome young men. But then youngsters are kidnapped.

I enjoyed the domestic Christmas scenes at the start of the book but for a new reader they could be really slow. Mrs Butler allowed Phryne’s adoptive daughter Ruth to prepare the Christmas dinner and Ruth is charmingly worried about it.

I was a bit surprised that Phryne’s household would just add the mysterious present under the tree. Surely by now she has so many enemies that they should have known better. Dot is very concerned about the party and thinks that Phryne will be seduced into all kinds of wickedness.

The book has a lot of riddles and I really enjoyed those, although I couldn’t figure them out before Phryne. The cast of characters is quite large and most of them are new but I wouldn’t mind seeing them again, especially the polo playing women.

The ending was a bit too convenient but I guess that goes with a Christmas tale.

The fifteenth book in the series.
Publication year: 2005
Format: Audio
Narrator: Stephanie Daniel
Running Time: 8 hrs and 7 minutes

This time Phryne is asked to solve a series of jewlery thefts on a luxury liner, SS Hinemoa. Four very expensive jewels have been stolen from the ship, from locked rooms. Nobody has been able to find the thief and the the company has had to pay for the jewels. Even though Phryne loves her friends and family, they make a lot of noice and Phryne is ready for a small vacation. So, Phryne and her level-headed companion Dot board the huge ship.

SS Hinemoa sails around New Zealand and Phyrne gets to know a lot about that country and especially about the Maori culture. She also gets to know her eccentric fellow passangers, all of whom are suspects because they sailed on the ship during the other thefts, some of the crew, and especially, the band: Mavis and the Melody Makers. But then, one of the passangers is murdered.

Death by Water has very interesting descriptions of both luxury ship and Maori culture. In fact, Greenwood says in her notes afterwards that she had to built a model of the ship and researched it throughly. Even though the first class passangers seem rich and therefore happy, most of them have quite dysfunctional relationships. Some of them are also very racist. Each chapter starts with a letter. I wasn’t able to guess why they were included and that wasn’t reveled until near the end.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think the mystery was the best of the series. But the characters and the setting more than made up for that.

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