Review: THE BATTLING PROPHET, Arthur Upfield – audio book

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Detective-Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte is on leave, staying with an old friend near Adelaide. Ben Wickham, a meteorologist whose uncannily accurate weather forecasts had helped farmers all over Australia, lived
nearby. Ben died after a three-week drinking binge and a doctor certified death as due to delirium tremens – but Bony’s host insists that whatever Ben died of it wasn’t alcohol…

From Audible

Ben Wickham, a famous meteorologist whose uncannily accurate forecasts have helped famers and graziers all over Australia, has died after a three-week drinking bout.

The doctor certifies that his death was cause by heart failure due to alcoholic poisoning.
But Ben’s neighbour and drinking partner, John Luton, is convinced his
friends didn’t die from too much gin. He manages to lure Detective-Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte to his riverside cottage near the South Australian coast, on an unofficial visit for a spot of fishing.

Bony, thinking at first he’s on holiday and paying a casual visit, is intrigued and decides to investigate.

My Take

Weather forecasts are extraordinarily important in the driest continent in the world. Farmers and graziers base their activities on them, but if drought is forecast then they will not re-stock their land, nor will they harrow in preparation for seeding. So lots of people stand to lose income if farming activities don’t occur.

Ben Wickham tried to interest the Australian government in purchasing his weather predictions in advance and, when they rejected him, then approached overseas governments. Since Wickham died lots of people, not all Australian in origin, have become very interested in finding his will, and the books in which he wrote his predictions for future weather. They are all convinced that his best mate John Luton is hiding something. After Luton takes a beating from some outsider Bony realises that some major steps have to be taken. But someone higher up in government wants Bony off the scene and he is peremptorily recalled Queensland, and even escorted to the South Australian border.

A story with quite a bit of outback humour as well as some serious thought. There are some very quirky characters and the author has tried give us some idea of their colloquial language.

Of particular interest to me is that so many of the Bony stories have a link to South Australia. This one appears to be set somewhere near the River Murray. Ironically the year of publication, 1956, is also the year of the flooding of the Murray, in contrast with the drought conditions of the novel.My rating: 4.4

I’ve also read
DEATH OF A SWAGMAN
4.4, THE BARRAKEE MYSTERY
4.0, A MAN OF TWO TRIBES 

Review: MAN OF TWO TRIBES, Arthur Upfield – audio book

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

With two camels and a dog, Detective-Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte sets off across southern Australia’s Nullarbor Plain in search of a missing
woman. He finds much more than he bargained for. Set in some of the most mysterious and unforgiving territory in the world – the Australian
desert – Man of Two Tribes is vintage Upfield.

From Audible:

Myra Thomas, accused of murdering her philandering husband, is foundnot guilty by a sympathetic jury. But while travelling from Adelaide toPerth on the Transcontinental Railway express, she mysteriously disappears during the overnight journey across the vast, featureless desert.
Detective-Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte takes the case and
sets off to search for her over the flat wasteland of the Nullabor
Plain. At first it seems that the harsh environment will give him no clues, but Bony soon finds more than he bargained for? landing himself in a bigger mystery, and a fight for survival…

My TakeThe Woomera Rocket Range, a collaborative effort between a number of International groups including the British and Australia, began immediately after World War II in 1946, with a joint project running until 1960. It is located in north-west South Australia, about 500 km north west of Adelaide. British nuclear tests at Maralinga, a series of seven nuclear tests were conducted within the Woomera area between 1955 and 1963. More recently, the Woomera Immigration Reception and Processing Centre, a detention centre,  opened nearby in 1999 and operated until 2003.

The focus in the opening pages of the story is a woman, recently acquitted of murder, who has disappeared without trace from the East-West railway travelling from Adelaide to Western Australia. There is some indication that she may have connections with international espionage and Bony is sent out on an undercover mission to see if he can locate her.

There are various Aboriginal legends associated with the Australian outback but here Upfield tells one about a monster, maybe a version of the Rainbow Snake, supposedly occupying the underground limestone caverns of the Nullarbor Plain which the train line traverses. This has the effect of both deterring aboriginal trackers from looking too closely for the missing woman, and also provides an explanation of any strange noises heard at night.

Bony of course is the “man of two tribes”, being a half-caste aborigine, but his Queensland tribe has little in common with the Aboriginal people living on the Nullarbor, apart from the markings on his body that show he is a warrior of some note. At the same time he is a very articulate person, highly qualified with a university degree, and a reputation for never failing to successfully conclude a case.

An interesting story but I did feel that it stretched the bounds of credibility. Basing the story around the Nullarbor Plain and Woomera does show how in touch with current events Upfield was. At the time of publication 1956, 8 years before his death, he was 66 years old and there would be another 8 Bony novels.

My rating: 4.0

I’ve also read
DEATH OF A SWAGMAN
4.4, THE BARRAKEE MYSTERY

Review: FATAL LIAISON, Vicki Tyley

  • Length:
    8 hrs and 33 mins
  • Format: Unabridged
  • Release date May 2014, from Crossroad Press

Synopsis (Publisher)

The lives of two strangers, Greg Jenkins and Megan Brighton, become inextricably entangled when they each sign up for a dinner dating agency. Greg’s reason for joining has nothing to do with looking for love. His recently divorced sister, Sam, has disappeared and Greg is convinced that Dinner for Twelve, or at least one of its clients, may be responsible.

Neither is Megan looking for love. Although single, she only joined at her best friend Brenda De Luca’s insistence. When a client of the dating agency is murdered, suspicion falls on several of the members. Then Megan’s friend Brenda disappears without trace, and
Megan and Greg join forces. Will they find Sam and Brenda? Or are they about to step into the same inescapable snare?

My Take

The dating agency Dinner for Twelve looks innocuous enough, but it certainly attracts its share of oddball characters. Its clients though don’t expect murder to be on the menu, but one of the guests at the first dinner that Brenda, Megan, and Greg attends disappears and is then found dead.

Greg Jenkins employs a rather comic private investigator to assist him in the search for his missing sister. And when her friend Brenda disappears he and Megan become a sleuthing “item”.  Greg is pretty sure he knows which of the other Dinner for Twelve clients is guilty, and is exultant when the police detain this person to assist in their enquiries, but bewildered when he is released.

This is a story with many twists and turns, with one that I didn’t expect right at the end.

My rating: 4.4

I’ve also reviewed 4.3, THIN BLOOD – an Amazon 2010 Customer Favorite

About the author

From her website

Mid 2002, I quit my high-pressure management job and moved with my husband
to a farm about ninety minutes north-east of Melbourne to write fulltime. Since then,
I’ve written five (six if you count my first one, now banished to the bottom drawer
never to see the light again) standalone contemporary murder mysteries.

Outside of writing and reading, my main interests are design and photography. I like to laugh, drink coffee, spend time alone, spend time in company, and get close to nature. I
dislike crowds, hospitals and offal.

I write fast-paced mystery and suspense novels in contemporary Australian settings. All my books are quick, easy reads with no gratuitous sex or violence – the type of books I enjoy as a reader. However, my characters occasionally swear.

Review: FALLING GLASS by Adrian McKinty

  • from Audible.com
  • stand-alone novel published in 2011
  • Narrated by: Gerard Doyle
  • Length: 9 hrs and 37 mins 
  • Format: Unabridged audio

Synopsis (Audible.com)

Richard Coulter is a man who has everything. His beautiful new wife is pregnant, his upstart airline is undercutting the competition and moving from strength to strength, his diversification into the casino business in Macau has been successful, and his fabulous Art Deco house on an Irish cliff top has just been featured in Architectural Digest. 

But then, for some reason, his ex-wife Rachel doesn’t keep her side of the custody agreement and vanishes off the face of the earth with Richard’s two daughters. Richard hires Killian, a formidable ex-enforcer for the IRA, to track her down before Rachel, a recovering drug addict, harms herself or the girls.

My Take

This makes very good listening.

Killian comes out of retirement to find Richard Coulter’s wife – the money on offer is far too good. Half a million dollars seems a lot of money for dealing with a custody case. At first Rachel Coulter alone knows why her ex-husband is having her hunted down. There’s a lot more at stake than two little girls.

The tension rises as Coulter pours more resources into the hunt. Killian realises that he himself is being tracked.

This is a difficult book to review without revealing too much of the story and so I’m not going to tell you much more. Despite his background as an IRA enforcer Killian comes over as a likeable character, but his willingness to be ruthless also comes in handy. The story is based mainly in Ireland.

My rating: 4.6

I’ve also reviewed

FIFTY GRAND
4.6, THE COLD COLD GROUND
4.8, I HEAR THE SIRENS IN THE STREET

Review: DEGREES OF CONNECTION, Jon Cleary

  • book published in 2003 by Harper Collins
  • #20 in the Scobie Malone series (the last)
  • audio version narrated by Brian Hewlett, and published by Sundowner Productions in 2003
  • length: approx 8 hrs 30 mins
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Marilyn Hyx, loyal private secretary to Natalie Shipwood, the dynamo behind the Orlando Development Company, is found murdered in her home.
Is it simply coincidence that she had in her possession some very sensitive Orlando documents? This is a Scobie Malone mystery, set in the world of shady financial deals and desperate dreams.

My Take

A year or two has passed since the events covered in WINTER CHILL which I read last year.

It is now 2001 and Scobie Malone as been promoted from inspector to superintendent, while Russ Clements is now head of Homicide. Malone’s son, Tom, seems to have impregnated a girlfriend who is subsequently murdered and his daughter Maureen is an ABC journalist covering the Securities Commission investigation into Orlando. Both Scobie and Russ are having trouble in adjusting to their new roles and responsibilities.

If there is a focus in this novel it is greed and how Australia fared during the financial collapse of the early 21st century. There are references to the New York Twin Towers tragedy and the rise of terrorism as a global fear factor. There’s also a sub-theme of families, loyalties, and friendship.

We really enjoyed the Australian ambience and cricket lovers will enjoy the likening of interrogation techniques to changing the bowling.

Brian Hewlett does a brilliant job of the narration.

DEGREES OF CONNECTION demonstrates what a master writer Jon Cleary was. It won the 2004 Ned Kelly Award for Best Novel. It was not only Cleary’s last Scobie Malone title but also his last crime fiction.  He declared he was getting “stale” and that he nothing more to write about.

Jon Cleary, well known outside this genre as the writer of THE SUNDOWNERS, was the winner of the inaugural Lifetime Contribution Ned Kelly Award in 1996.

DEGREES OF CONNECTION was so enjoyable that I am very regretful that I have read only two in the series. They are very faithful to their Australian (New South Wales) setting, refer to contemporary events, and are characterised by their empathetic portrayal of Malone, Clements and their families.

My rating: 4.7

Review: WINTER CHILL, Jon Cleary

  • originally published 1995
  • audio book published by Chivers 2011
  • playing time 9 hours 40 mins
  • Narrator Christian Rodska
  • ISBN 978-1-4458-1306-6
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (Audible.com)

It is 3.30 a.m. The Sydney monorail performs its endless circuit like a
pale metal caterpillar – all for the benefit of one dead passenger.

Elsewhere in the city’s bleak midwinter, Darling Harbour buzzes to the
sound of 1,000 American lawyers attending an international conference.
And that means 1,000 opinions as to who killed their president. Two
bodies later, and the more Scobie Malone fillets the heart of the city’s
legal profession, the more he cuts into an intrigue of international
proportions….

My Take

#12 in Jon Cleary’s Scobie Malone series, CID police procedurals set in Sydney, that reflect current events such as the building of the Sydney Opera House and the holding of the Sydney Olympics.

Against the background of  an international conference for lawyers being held in Sydney, an American lawyer who turns out to have been born in Australia is killed. His body is discovered on the monorail and then the security guard who discovered the body is murdered.

There’s quite a bit of human interest in the story too. Scobie Malone has two teenage children and his wife discovers she has breast cancer. Scobie Malone is a principled detective who believes in thorough investigative techniques.

A good story made even better by the excellent narration of Christian Rodska.Quite an intricate plot.

My rating: 4.6

In 2004 Cleary (1917-2010) won a Ned Kelly Award for best novel for the last of the Scobie Malone books DEGREES OF CONNECTION. He also won an Edgar Award for Best Novel in 1975 for a non Malone novel PETER’S PENCE.

Jon Cleary was probably better known for the fact that he wrote THE SUNDOWNERS.

Wikipedia has a good listing of the Scobie Malone books with single sentence plot outlines.

    Cleary once stated that, “There’s more than a bit of me in Scobie. We both come from fighting Irish stock, we’re both from Erskineville, the wrong side of the tracks, and both of us slugged our way up.” Malone was a Catholic family man with rigid principles who mostly worked in Sydney, although his adventures occasionally took him overseas.
    Other regular characters in the series included:
  • Malone’s Dutch wife Lisa, who he first met working as Sir James Quentin’s secretary in The High Commissioner. She was based on Cleary’s wife Joy.
  • Malone’s partner Sergeant Russ Clements, who eventually became head of Homicide.
  • Inspector Leeds, Malone’s superior.
  • His father Con and mother Brigid (based on Cleary’s parents).
  • His children Tom and Maureen (based on Cleary’s grandchildren).

Scobie Malone (Fantastic Fiction)

1. The High Commissioner (1966)

2. Helga’s Web (1970)

3. Ransom (1973)

4. Dragons at the Party (1987)

5. Now and Then, Amen (1988)

6. Babylon South (1989)

7. Murder Song (1990)

8. Pride’s Harvest (1991)

9. Dark Summer (1991)

10. Bleak Spring (1993)

11. Autumn Maze (1994)

12. Winter Chill (1995)

13. A Different Turf (1996)

14. Endpeace (1997)

15. Five Ring Circus (1998)

16. Dilemma (1999)

17. The Bear Pit (2000)

18. Yesterday’s Shadow (2001)

19. The Easy Sin (2002)

20. Degrees of Connection (2005)

Sadly I have only one or two of this series, and that really is something I should correct.

Review: THE SECRET RIVER by Kate Grenville -audio book

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

A nominee for the Man Booker prize.

After a childhood of poverty and petty crime in the slums of London,
William Thornhill is sentenced in 1806 to be transported to New South
Wales for the term of his natural life. With his wife Sal and children
in tow, he arrives in a harsh land that feels at first like a death
sentence.

But among the convicts there is a whisper that freedom can be
bought, an opportunity to start afresh. Away from the infant township of
Sydney, up the Hawkesbury River, Thornhill encounters men who have tried
to do just that: Blackwood, who is attempting to reconcile himself with
the place and its people, and Smasher Williams, whose fear of this
alien world turns into brutal depravity towards it. As Thornhill and his
family stake their claim on a patch of ground by the river, the battle
lines between old and new inhabitants are drawn.

The Secret River joins a tradition of grand historical fiction that stretches from Thomas
Keneally’s The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith and Peter Carey’s True History
of the Kelly Gang.

My Take

I should note first of all that this is not strictly crime fiction although it is based on Australia’s convict (criminal) past and the main characters are felons, and murder does occur.

What it does do for the reader is give a pretty authentic portrayal of early 19th century New South Wales, a harsh penal colony. It gives a snapshot, in a “no holds barred” sort of way, of a convict, ticket of leave, family who pioneer life on the Hawkesbury River and eventually begin to call New South Wales home.

I say it is authentic because it has all the features of research well done and resonates with what I know of colonial history, but also tells me a little more.

It highlights 19th century beliefs about the aboriginal population whom the authorities did not regard as owning the land because they didn’t farm the soil. It illustrates the resultant conflict between the aborigines and the convict/emancipist settlers on what was then the frontier of the colony.

The reading experience is made all the more enjoyable by the excellent narration skills of Bill Wallis.

So why did I read it?

I read almost exclusively crime fiction and decided that this year I would challenge myself to read outside the genre occasionally.

This is the first one I’m managed.

THE SECRET RIVER is the first of a trilogy set in early Australia.

It won the Commonwealth Prize for Literature; the Christina Stead Prize
for Fiction (the NSW Premier’s Prize); the Community Relations
Commission Prize; the Booksellers’ Choice Award; the Fellowship of
Australian Writers Prize and the Publishing Industry Book of the Year
Award.

It was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and the Man Booker Prize and longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin prize.

Kate Grenville’s website.

My rating: 4.8

Review: The Ionia Sanction by Gary Corby

The setting is Athens in 460BC and Nicolaos, son of Sophroniscus the sculptor, is struggling with his fledgling career as an investigator. However the city’s leader Pericles does call on Nico’s services when Thorian, an Athenian official, is found hanged as if he committed suicide. Nico soon determines that the man was murdered but is then given the more critical task of locating the murderer and retrieving a scroll containing important information which Thorian had in his possession prior to his death. When his plan to catch the murderer quickly goes astray Nico goes on something of an epic quest which sees him rescue a young girl from being consigned to a brothel and takes him to Ephesus where his former girlfriend Diotima has lived since Nico’s father refused them permission to marry. Once there Nico’s problems only get worse as he joins the bizarre household of a sworn enemy of Athens, Themistocles, and must convince Diotima he hasn’t taken up with any other women.

The historical aspects of this book, like those of its predecessor, are first rate. There is a lot of detail provided about life in Ancient Greece and this is done generally done as part of the story in an engaging way. I found the depiction of the differences between Greek and Persian cultures to be particularly compelling as it is done with a genuine curiosity and lack of judgement. As always for me it’s the little details about day-to-day life in different times that stick in my head and here there are many such pockets of interest. Nico’s aversion to the Persian habit of wearing trousers for example made me laugh; it doesn’t seem to matter what century we’re in we humans have difficulty with people who dress ‘funny’.

I was actually quite chuffed when I found this book in audio format but on reflection I’m not sure it was the best choice for the story, or at least not for me. The narrator, Erik Davies, did a great job with the voices but I’m afraid I found the narration a bit slow (it often happens for me with American narrators who just speak more slowly than the English ones I listen to a lot). But the main reason I struggled with the book in audio format is that it made the entirely modern language much more noticeable. As I remarked in my review of the first book in this series my personal preference is for historical fiction to make some effort to use language that sounds as if it belongs to the period. I acknowledge this is mostly artifice but it helps me transport myself to the different time being depicted. In audio format the modern phrases and terminology used throughout The Ionia Sanction grated more than I think they would have in print and I think this was the main factor in me struggling at times to remain swept up in the historical world.

The beginning and the end of this book are strong from a storytelling point of view, full of action, adventure and engaging little side threads to the main story. While it could just be another effect of the slow-talking narrator for whatever reason I didn’t find the period in the middle of the book where Nico is lingering at the estate of Themistocles (a period of several months) as compelling as the rest of the story. *It just seems to meander a little too much for me as we discover some members of the household have a peculiar predilictions and there is a romantic interlude that goes on a bit too long (though I am the ultimate non-rmantic cynic) while life idles slowly by. Overall though Nico is really quite charming and carries the story well with his mix of naivety, ambition and growing intelligence.

I’m not sure I’d recommend the audio version of The Ionia Sanction unless you’re new to listening and want something a little slower to ease you into reading by your ears. However as a historical novel with loads of period detail and funny, engaging characters the book is a very enjoyable read.

*Post updated to remove potential spoiler


I reviewed The Pericles Commission, book 1 in this series, earlier this year

Interestingly for me Gary Corby has discussed the ‘voice’ used in historical fiction more than once at his very informative and entertaining blog. His post about the use of OK got me thinking and a post earlier this week about different styles of historical fiction made me squirm a little. I do feel guilty for not being able to come more easily to grips with a historical story in which words like sexpot are used. Corby’s argument that he uses current colloquial dialogue just as the citizens of ancient Athens would have had their own version of is not wrong. I just can’t quite seem to get my eyes (or ears) to agree.


My rating: 3/5 stars (rating scale is explained here)
Author website: http://blog.garycorby.com/
Publisher: Dreamscape Media [2011]
ISBN: N/A (downloaded from audible.com)
Length: 11 hours 59 minutes
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: I bought
Creative Commons Licence
This work by http://fairdinkumcrime.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Review: THE DIGGERS REST HOTEL by Geoffrey McGeachin

It’s two years since the end of the second World War and Charlie Berlin has returned to Australia, having been a bomber pilot in Europe then a POW in Poland. It’s fair to say Charlie’s was a grim wartime experience and he is still haunted by things he saw and did. Upon returning to work as a Detective Constable in Melbourne he learns that all the colleagues he started out with have moved up the hierarchy (the police force was exempt from the military draft and officers were discouraged from volunteering but Charlie had family reasons for joining up) and he gets all the worst assignments. Which is why he’s the one sent to rural Victoria, on the border with New South Wales, to investigate a spate of armed robberies, the latest of which resulted in a paymaster being badly injured. He arrives in town to be greeted by a young constable, Rob Roberts, who will drive him around (and report back to the local Sergeant who is not entirely happy to have someone from the city on his turf) and the two form a complementary team of investigators with Charlie supplying the experience and Roberts providing the local knowledge.

The historical aspects of the novel are extremely well done; feeling authentic through the use of interesting details but not overblown with evidence of the author’s research. Everything from the rationing that the country was still experiencing to the kinds of foods that might have been served in a country pub at that time to the photographic equipment and techniques utilised by the adventurous female photo-journalist that Charlie encounters during his investigation are both accurate and woven into the story seamlessly. Some of the less pleasant aspects of life during the time are also well depicted including the fairly shabby treatment of anyone who wasn’t white. It really did feel like I was transported back to the time, a factor helped I think by the excellent narration of the audio book in which the language and slang were pronounced to fit in with the period.

In that crime fiction has something of a plethora of men who have returned from war forever changed Charlie Berlin is not a particularly unique character. However his particular trials and tribulations are engagingly teased out and his character does have a solidly credible feel to it. Through his conversations with Rebecca Green, the photo-journalist, and the memories that sometimes stop him dead in his tracks (and send him reaching for the whisky bottle) we learn enough about his war time experiences to sympathise and feel sorrow for Charlie and the thousands of others like him.  We see too through the investigation how the war has impacted on other returned soldiers and the families of those who didn’t make it back.

In the end it is Charlie’s understanding of these impacts on various people that enables him to work out not only who has been committing the robberies but also who isn’t (and then who is) responsible for the rather grim murder that takes place while he is in the town. The crime solving here at times appears to almost be an after thought but that would be too simplistic a way of looking at things. Charlie believes that you need to know a place and its people in order to solve a crime and his meandering from crime scene to crime scene and meetings with various people in the town all do have a purpose. The upside for readers is that we too get a sense that we’re really getting under the skin of the town at the same time as we meet all manner of poignant and intriguing characters. Like the wife of the Diggers Rest Hotel publican who is beaten sometimes because her husband is enraged at having been injured before he could go to war, or the retired WWI Captain who is so convinced that communists will be invading some time soon that he is raising his own militia.

A tiny part of me is, I admit, a trifle weary from reading about the horrible experiences of people returning from wars. No matter how many times the consequences are depicted in harrowing ways we seem, collectively, to jump at almost any chance to fight and kill and hate all over again so I do sometimes wonder if there is any point. But if it is going to be done then it should be done well, and McGeachin has done a first rate job here, capturing both the universal truths that are associated with the experiences and the peculiarly Australian, somewhat laconic way of dealing with the nightmares and other repercussions (a combination of beer, football and the occasional bit of pointless biffo). With down-to-earth, very believable characters and a strong, enveloping sense of place and time THE DIGGERS REST HOTEL is a top notch work of historical crime fiction.


Kerrie has already provided her thoughts on THE DIGGERS REST HOTEL (and she enjoyed it very much)

This book is one of three which has been shortlisted in the best fiction category for this year’s Ned Kelly Awards. The other two are Angela Savage’s THE HALF CHILD and Chris Womersley’s BEREFT.


My rating: 4/5
Narrator: Peter Byrne
Publisher: Bolinda audio [2010]
ISBN: N/A downloaded from audible.com
Length: 8 hours, 18 minutes
Format: mp3
Source: I bought it

Review: DEAD MAN’S CHEST by Kerry Greenwood

In the 18th instalment of the Phryne (pronounced Fry-knee) Fisher series set in 1920’s Australia, Phryne and her entourage have left Melbourne for a summer holiday in the seaside town of Queenscliff. They are to occupy the home of an anthropologist acquaintance of Phryne’s but when they arrive they find the Johnstons, a servant couple who were to look after the holidaymakers, appear to have left in a hurry and taken all the supplies with them. As well as being wealthy enough to get herself out of most pickles the Right Honourable Phryne is both unflappable and resourceful so soon has the house running smoothly with the help of her extended family. Practicalities dealt with Phryne and company turn to considerations of the Johnston’s disappearance and the alarming matter that has occupied the town’s gossips: who is cutting of the plaits of all the young ladies?

DEAD MAN’S CHEST provides that all too rare phenomenon: an intelligent cosy mystery with the bonus of a sense of humour and set against the backdrop of the roaring twenties. Phryne is the kind of very strong female character who you’ll either love or hate and she has grown on me over time. She is beautiful, rich and intelligent (which could get annoying after a while) but is also a fiercely loyal friend and is far more impressed by a person’s abilities and character than she is their social status. She is also not one to stand idly by when she sees an injustice or other wrong-doing being committed: a trait the world is surely crying out for. She has two adopted daughters who have both been rescued from some form of poverty or danger and during the course of the novel acquires another young charge, a boy named Tinker who starts out as a kitchen-hand but soon becomes integral to Phryne’s crime solving. There are a plethora of other characters to enjoy, both nice and not, but my favourites were a crowd of surrealists who provided just the right smidgen of bizarre that most books could benefit from.

Although fairly easy to follow, as befits a cosy mystery, the plot here has plenty to keep the reader’s attention and there’s a nice balance of background historical detail and plot advancement throughout the story. There’s a film about a local treasure myth being shot in the town which provides for a lot of the action and there are many social gatherings (always accompanied by lashings of marvellously described food) and little adventures to maintain interest. Although this is a long series you could easily start with this book, particularly as it involves only the core group of Phryne’s retinue as she’s not in her usual Melbourne haunts. I have only read a couple of the very early books in this series but I had no trouble picking things up as I went.

Stephanie Daniel’s narration of this novel is outstanding, providing a myriad of accents and voices for the rather large cast of characters but never feeling like it is a forced performance. It has been a long time since I acquainted myself with Phryne Fisher and her extended family and I found myself pleasantly surprised with the meeting. It feels like Greenwood has put just as much work into this instalment as she would have done her first (not something that can be said about all authors with long-running series) and the characters were fresh and interesting. Highly recommended to fans of light historical or cosy mysteries, or those wondering if they should give one a go.


Kerrie has already provided her thoughts on DEAD MAN’S CHEST.

In news for Phryne fans, she is due to hit the small screen next year.


My rating: 3.5/5
Narrator: Stephanie Daniel
Publisher: Bolinda audio [2010]
ISBN: N/A downloaded from audible.com
Length: 8 hours, 31 minutes
Format: mp3
Source: I bought it