Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dead Man’s Chest

Dead Man's Chest: A Phryne Fisher Mystery

The kids are asleep, and my husband's out at a work function. In the supreme effort of getting three tired kids, two who have been sick, into bed on time by myself for the second night in a row I skipped the enforced clean up, and now dozens of tiny slips of cut up paper litter the back room rug; the lounge room floor is dotted with pieces of a marble run, a dolly pram and a heap of blocks. Books are stacked in a teetering pile next to the Big Green Chair, and the kitchen table – my writing desk – has a jungle jigsaw and a kid's code book at the other end. As for the mysterious fever which affected my daughters last night and today, well, it broke; but now I ain't feeling too hot. So I'm sitting here in trackie dacks and singlet, mysterious viral aches in my elbows and backbone, fingers pruny from the washing up: not exactly the height of glamour.

It could be depressing. Actually, it is a little depressing. Fortunately, there are means of escape. Tonight I am playing old jazz, sipping a glass of port and reflecting on Kerry Greenwood's most recent offering, Dead Man's Chest. It's the latest in a series of novels set in the roaring twenties in and around Melbourne. Her heroine is the racy Phryne (rhymes with shiny) Fisher: ferociously intelligent, terribly glamorous, deliciously sensual, fabulously wealthy, and drop dead gorgeous.

Phryne is a Lady Detective with a pearl handled gun and a penchant for danger. This time, the story begins as Phryne, her maid Dot and her adoptive daughters Jane and Ruth decamp to the seaside town of Queenscliff for a holiday. They arrive at their accommodation to find the housekeepers missing and the house mysteriously empty. Meanwhile a pigtail snipper is terrorizing the young women of the town; a fisher boy needs a household and a purpose; and three spoiled toffs must be sorted out. Phryne gets to the heart of everything, unravelling mystery upon mystery, with her usual aplomb.

The book is packed with interesting characters: Irish fisherfolk, surrealists, nasty crooks, a film crew and a delightfully awful genteel neighbour, Mrs Mason. Phryne observes all with her insouciant eye.

As we can expect from Greenwood, Dead Man's Chest is a deliciously light confection, packed with loyal servants, good cooking, designer dresses, dangerous episodes, terrific metaphors and even, this time, buried treasure. It's escape, pure and simple... hallelujah!

You can read more about the Phryne Fisher novels here.

Cocaine Blues

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