In brief: Phryne’s set to be Queen of the Flowers at the upcoming St Kilda Flower Festival, but there’s a missing girl and a suspicious near-drowning to deal with first.
The good: A fun mystery, complicated with the return of an ex-lover.
The not-so-good: Not so much Jack Robinson or crime in this one.
Why I chose it: Have enjoyed other Phryne Fisher books.
Duration: 8 hours, 20 mins (book is 288 pages)
Narrator: Stephanie Daniel
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Setting: Melbourne, Australia
My rating: 6.5 out of 10
I have a hit and miss history with Miss Phryne Fisher. It seems that every second book I read in the series is not quite as interesting as the one preceding it. There’s no rhyme or reason for this as I read them completely out of order. While I loved Murder and Mendelsohn, Queen of the Flowers just didn’t hold my interest as well. I don’t think it’s because it’s an audiobook. Stephanie Daniel is a fantastic narrator and has the skill of making all the characters sound completely different in addition to a beautiful speaking voice. The plot is a bit jumpy and there’s a lack of real mystery in this book. It almost seems like Phryne is biding her time, dabbling in little mysteries while she waits for something better to come along.
It’s 1928 and St Kilda is working hard in the lead up to a festival, where Phryne (who else?) will be Queen of the Flowers. Phryne meets some old friends who are working for the circus nearby, while her adopted daughters are searching for one of her fathers. One of Phryne’s handmaidens for the festival goes missing and turns up in the surf, battered and bruised. What happened? Phryne is determined to find out. Meanwhile, one of her daughters, Ruth, goes missing, and despite the concern that she may be in danger, nobody seems too worried. The story has loads of plot threads, including the romance between Ruth’s parents, a trip Phryne made after the war, the flower festival, Phryne’s lover’s wife designing a garden for Phryne and Rose, the missing girl. There was a lot to take it and things jumped around a bit. It required a bit more thinking and listening than your average book. I would have liked more focus on the child abuse and less on the circus – the light scenes felt out of place at times. Plus, I’m a fan of Detective Jack Robinson but he didn’t make many appearances in this book. More Jack next time please!
Phryne is the James Bond of 1920’s Australia – this woman can do anything and knows everything. Sometimes I felt she was being a show off with references to music and literature – things that ‘normal’ people wouldn’t understand. It felt to me that the book was trying to take on too much in one go. If the plot had been a bit simpler and there was less of a smug feeling, I think I would have enjoyed it more. My audiobook had a bonus interview with Kerry Greenwood, which was very interesting and possibly my favourite part of the experience!
Will I try Phryne again? Definitely – when the story is good for me, the series is a rollicking read. I tend to watch the television show (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries) with one eye on the clothes and the other in a book, but some episodes capture my full attention. It seems that the books are falling the same way. Next time I might check out what others think before making my choice of which book in the series to read next.