8 April 2009

Review: MURDER ON A MIDSUMMER NIGHT, Kerry Greenwood

Allen & Unwin, 2008,ISBN 978-1-74114-999-9, 292 pages.
A Phryne Fisher Mystery

The year is 1929 and Phryne Fisher will be 29 on the 13th January. Phryne is asked by her sister Eliza to investigate the death of Augustine Manifold. The coroner has brought in a verdict of accidental drowning while drunk, but his mother, Eliza's friend, is convinced that he was murdered. The same age as Phryne, Augustine was a dealer in antiques and the only family Mrs Manifold had left.

A second case comes Phryne's way when a barrister at law asks her to solve the case of a missing inheritor. Mrs Bonnetti has died leaving her estate to be divided equally between her children, the issue of her body, that is. The barrister suspects there may have been a child born out of wedlock.

Of course, Phryne finds that neither case is solved either quickly or simply. Both involve a nest of characters, some of whom are particularly nasty.

I felt the book lost a little through the division of attention between the two cases. Of interest though is the way in which Phryne involves members of her household in the investigations, in particular her companion Dot, and her adopted daughter Jane who is a budding forensic pathologist.

Kerry Greenwood takes great pains to get historical details correct, and supplies a Bibliography with further reading for those who want more reading. She says in the Afterword
    "This book has left me feeling a bit like a Dr Who casualty; time-sick. Fortunately I can vouch for all of my facts."
One reference that interested me was this one:
Phryne is speaking to her friend Detective Inspector Robinson:
    "...I have been in some awful company before - I have dined with torturers and Apaches and strict Plymouth Brethren and politicians - but I have never met such vile company as those people. Each in his or her own way, they were frightful."
The use of the word Apache was something I discovered in Agatha Christie's THE MYSTERY OF THE BLUE TRAIN and in THE BIG FOUR. It was interesting to find Kerry Greenwood using it, and for me it added just that bit of authenticity to the story.

MURDER ON A MIDSUMMER NIGHT is #17 in the Phryne Fisher series, and Kerry Greenwood is the holder of a Ned Kelly Award for Lifetime contribution (2003).

My rating: 4.2

by Sally Roddom who says "Kerry Greenwood takes the sting out of the evil side of life with humour, friendship and some very off the wall characters."

Phryne Fisher has her own website. The Phryne Fisher series (pronounced Fry-knee, to rhyme with briny) began in 1989 with Cocaine Blues which was a great success. Kerry has written sixteen books in this series with no sign yet of Miss Fisher hanging up her pearl-handled pistol. Kerry says that as long as people want to read them, she can keep writing them.

Read an extract of MURDER ON A MIDSUMMER NIGHT. In fact there is an extract available of almost all the Phryne Fisher novels from the Books page on the website.
Many of the Phryne Fisher books are available in the US through Poisoned Pen Press.
Kerry Greenwood has also made it on to Wikipedia.

Kerry Greenwood is also the author of the Corinna Chapman Earthly Delights series.


Bernadette said...

I find it odd that I can't get into this series. I've tried several of the books but haven't enjoyed any of them. Yet I love Greenwood's other series. Maybe I'll try again one day.

sally906 said...

Hey girlfriend - that's RoddOm not Roddam - LOL!!!!

Kerrie said...

Sometimes Phryne just annoys me too much Bernadette, but there is something a bit different about this one, although you may not like it any better.
Sorry Sally - fixed!


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