Death in Daylesford, Kerry Greenwood
First released in Australia in November 2020, DEATH IN DAYLESFORD is the 21st Phryne Fisher book, set in Victoria's Spa Country - between Daylesford and Hepburn Springs, in an area that's all too real, with some fictional places built into this story, as is the tendency with this very engaging series.
The first of Phryne Fisher novel was published in 1989, so this is one of the really long-standing, fictional crime series in Australia, relying heavily on a tone and style set way back then, and a central character that is memorable, frequently funny, and always very dashing. Whilst her readers may be 30 something years older, Miss Fisher is still plying her private investigator interests in 1920's Australia, with her faithful companion Dot at her side (eyes firmly closed whenever they take to the road in her glorious Hispano-Suiza car, or firmly cast sky or floor-ward to avoid glimpses of the frequent boudoir activities of her mistress), and a cast of supporting characters, work and home based, that fans of either the TV series, or the books will instantly recognise. In this outing, however, Inspector Jack is sidelined, and the entire household are back in Melbourne, investigating their own mysterious death, whilst Phryne and Dot are off in the Spa Country to meet a man running a retreat for returned servicemen, and of course, encountering a series of disappearances and murders of their own.
I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the earlier audio version of the Phryne Fisher novels, so the death of the original narrator was very sad, but the entire series is one of those sets of novels that I've dipped into and out of for years now, in no particular order, and never expecting anything other than a bit of good rollicking investigating, with a daring female central character, who is exactly what you'd hope of a poor girl, turned Hon., now of independent means, and mind, fully in touch with her own intelligence, desires and directions. Interestingly I've often found there is infrequent crossover between fans of Greenwood's other long running series - the Corinna Chapman books, and the Phryne Fisher novels, although I hasten to add there's nothing extensive or scientific about that observation. For the record, I've never really connected with the Chapman books.
On the entertaining side as always, the mystery in DEATH IN DAYLESFORD is also nicely twisty, with a sideline of disappearing women that would be particularly apt in current day Australia as well. The setting is well invoked as always, and it was particularly nice to spend some time with such old friends in such a beautiful part of the world.
Surrounded by secrets, great and small, the formidable Miss Phryne Fisher returns to vanquish injustice.
When a mysterious invitation arrives for Miss Phryne Fisher from an unknown Captain Herbert Spencer, Phryne's curiosity is excited. Spencer runs a retreat in Victoria's spa country for shell-shocked soldiers of the First World War. It's a cause after Phryne's own heart but what could Spencer want from her?
Phryne and the faithful Dot view their spa sojourn as a short holiday but are quickly thrown in the midst of disturbing Highland gatherings, disappearing women, murder and the mystery of the Temperance Hotel.
Meanwhile, Cec, Bert and Tinker find a young woman floating face down in the harbour, dead. Tinker and Phryne's resilient adopted daughters, Jane and Ruth, decide to solve what appears to be a heinous crime.
Disappearances, murder, bombs, booby-traps and strange goings-on land Miss Phryne Fisher right in the middle of her most exciting adventure.