This cozy mystery (326 pages) was published in April of 2006 by Poisoned Pen Press. The book takes you to 1920s Melbourne. Melissa read Cocaine Blues and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.
The Honorable Miss Phryne Fisher (that’s FRY-nee to rhyme with briny) is stubborn, witty, true of heart, an unapologetic feminist, and able to shoot a villain at 30 paces while dancing the tango. She stands for all that is good — and controversial — in 1920s Australia.
Rather than dither away her days in her luxurious Melbourne manor, Miss Fisher has succumbed to her natural curiosity and fashioned herself a lady detective. She’s also provided a home to a collection of ragtag outcasts that form her endearing found family: a couple of taxi drivers, orphans with sticky fingers but good souls, housekeepers stoic in the face of midnight escapades, and a stray black cat and dog.
With a loving wink to golden-age mysteries, the crimes in these novels tend to be bloodless with twists and turns of plot to keep you guessing. But unlike a traditional cozy, there’s plenty of sex, sarcasm, and sass as Miss Phryne tackles each caper with aplomb.
In this novel — the first installment in the 21-book series; no need to read in order — Phryne is bored with the London season, all those dull dances and blathering colonels. When she’s invited — by one of the aforementioned blatherers — to poke her elegant nose into a mystery in Melbourne, she can’t resist. Soon she’s checked into the glamorous Hotel Windsor and mingling with local society. But it’s not all champagne and caviar.
Phryne uncovers a plot that includes, in no particular order, Turkish baths, twin Russian ballet dancers, smuggled cocaine, a prostitution ring, corrupt cops, socialist wharfies — who are the good guys — and an illegal abortion racket.
But, as Phryne is involved, there’s always reason to hope for a happy outcome, as well as plenty of flirting, thrilling escapades, fabulous fashions, and humor in the face of danger. Just another day in the life of Miss Phryne Fisher.
A young man in one’s hotel bedroom is capable of being explained, but a corpse is always a hindrance. — Kerry Greenwood
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