In brief: The twentieth Phryne Fisher mystery, where Phryne investigates the death of a conductor and tries to work out who wants to kill a former code-breaker.
The good: There’s a lot of things going on, so it’s never dull.
The not-so-good: I need to catch up on Phryne’s earlier adventures!
Pages: 376 (ARC)
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
My rating: 8 out of 10
A long time ago, I saw a book series featuring a 1920s lady detective I had never heard of in a Melbourne bookstore. I bought a book, read it, enjoyed it and then forgot about it. Fast forward to now when Phryne Fisher is taking over our television screens (in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries) and I’ve remembered this series again. Phryne’s had many more adventures since I last read of her – Murder and Mendelssohn is her twentieth book. Once again, she’s asked by Detective Inspector Jack Robinson to help investigate the death of a conductor who is found with part of a Mendelssohn score stuffed down his throat. It’s at this time that Phryne finds out her old friend and sometime lover, John Wilson is back in town. He’s on a tour with the beautiful but cold Rupert Sheffield, and things heat up as someone keeps trying to finish off Rupert. It’s up to Phryne to re-establish old war contacts as she tries to save Rupert on John’s behalf.
Phryne is just as glamorous as ever and there’s plenty of detail in her gorgeous clothes, house and food. The book also clearly explains how her companion Dot fits in to her history as well as adopted children Ruth, Jane and Tinker (who don’t appear in the TV series as far as I know – I don’t watch it that closely!)This makes it easier to understand if you are new to the series or a casual partaker in Phryne’s life. Phryne’s also a bit of a wild child (if you hadn’t guessed that from the Beretta she always carries) – there’s a bit of casual sex in here, as well as a gay relationship or two. Don’t let that put you off the mysteries though – I liked that there was two going on as it kept the plot flowing freely. The music and choir I wasn’t a big fan of – but it’s not a huge part of the narrative anyway, except that choirs can be a good source of murder suspects!
I liked that the novel covered some darker references to Phryne’s time as an ambulance driver in the war. This contrasted nicely with the more flamboyant 1920s lifestyle and gave a reason why all these bright young things were partying like there was no tomorrow. It also gave her character a more human touch.
I loved the references to 1920s Melbourne – with the landmarks mentioned in this book, it would be quite easy to trace Phryne’s steps from choir practice to the Windsor Hotel for a party. Perfect for fans!
I’m now crossing my fingers that I’ll win a competition for the entire series – which would be a wonderful, fun packed read for the summer!