Murder in Williamstown, Kerry Greenwood
In the previous book in the long and much loved Phryne Fisher series, DEATH IN DAYLESFORD, author Kerry Greenwood felt it was time for the younger members of the Fisher household to do some investigating of their own. Not surprisingly Ruth, Jane and young Tinker turned out to quite the dab hands, and they continue their activities in number 22 in the series - MURDER IN WILLIAMSTOWN.
Whilst the murder, and Phryne's latest dalliance do centre around the Melbourne bayside suburb of Williamstown, there's also an investigation underway at the Blind Institute, courtesy of Ruth and Jane spending time there as part of their school's outreach program. Then there's the strident, and somewhat biblical warning notes being deposited in the Fisher household letterbox, and a peeping tom at Phryne's bedroom window - an investigation commenced by Phryne, and nicely wrapped up by young Tinker, who isn't quite the dab hand at surveillance he'd like to think he is. Meanwhile, in Williamstown, it's not all charming suppers in the house of her latest admirer, Phryne also stumbles upon some very odd goings on in a local warehouse, and a dead body on the waterfront.
Whilst these investigations are all independent of each other, at the centre of nearly all the nefarious goings on in Melbourne at the time of these books, sits Phryne Fisher, along with her sleek car, gorgeous clothes, numerous lovers (always including the married Lin Chung), and the various members of her household. As the younger three step up a bit, Dot and the Butlers do seem to take a little more of a backseat, although Dot's worried that her fiance is developing cold feet, and the Butlers are busy coming up with the perfect refreshments for every guest, including the wife of Lin Chung when she calls asking for Phryne's assistance in the matter of a missing sister, and that aforementioned dead body. The Chinese community in Melbourne at the time being made up of two distinct groups - those of the respectable middle class, and those engaged in more dodgy pursuits. Phyrne's invitation to a magnificent party provides the link between the mysterious Mr Hong, and some of the concerns of the extended Chung family, just as Tinker's surveillance leads to the exposure of some awfully hypocritical behaviour. Meanwhile Jane and Ruth manage to flush a particularly nasty bit of financial shenanigans with only the smallest amount of assistance from Phyrne when it comes to a few loose ends.
I will confess that I read these novels for the sheer entertainment factor (I do miss Stephanie Daniel, who was a frequent participant in long drives as we listened to the audio versions of books 1 - 20 in the series which she voiced before her untimely death in around 2014). And as entertainment, either in the written form or audio they excel. Clever and witty, pacey yet historically accurate (worth reading the author's note in this one to find out about the veracity of the research done and the directions it pulls the author in), these are perfect to while away an evening or two. With a glass of sparkling, or a gin and tonic in hand, feet up, wondering what could have been if only you'd been born in an earlier time, in a different place, with a completely different head of hair, attitude and physical capacity...
The first Phryne Fisher novel, COCAINE BLUES, was published in 1989 - 34 years ago and Ms Greenwood is still writing, here's hoping the health issues she mentions in the aforementioned author's notes are not affecting her too much, and this reader's condolences on the loss of the magnificent Princess of Cats, Belladonna.
Accustomed to both murder and dalliance, Australia's favourite detective, the inimitable Miss Fisher, returns in a case that will test her tact and judgement to the full.
When the redoubtable Miss Phryne Fisher receives threatening letters at her home, she enlists the unflappable apprentice Tinker to investigate. But as the harassment of Phryne threatens to spin out of control, her lover, Lin Chung is also targeted.
Meanwhile, Dot begins to fear that her fiance, newly promoted Sergeant Hugh Collins, has gone cold on setting a date for their wedding.
Phryne's clever daughters, Ruth and Jane, begin their own investigation into suspiciously dwindling funds when they are sent to help at the Blind Institute.
None of this is quite enough to prevent Phryne from accepting an invitation to a magnificent party at the house of the mysterious Hong. When the party is interrupted by shocking tragedy, Phryne gathers all of her unerring brilliance to track down the miscreants. With some unlikely assistance, Phryne is in a race against time to save a pair of young lovers from disgrace and death.