Reviews by L. J. Roberts

KERRY GREENWOOD – Dead Man’s Chest. Poisoned Pen Press, hardcover/trade paperback, November 2010.

Genre:   Historical Mystery/Private Eye. Leading character:  Phryne Fisher (18th in series). Setting:   Australia/Golden Age (1920s).

First Sentence:   Dot opened her eyes.

   The Honorable Phryne Fisher, private investigator, takes her family on vacation to a house she’s been lent in Queenscliff, Australia. The owner had promised Phryne, her maid Dot, adopted daughters Ruth and Jane, and dog Molly, would be well looked after by Mr. and Mrs. Johnson.


   However, when they arrive, the Johnson’s and their possessions are gone, the larder is completely empty and the back door wide open. The family settles in to make do while Phryne tries to find out what’s happened to the Johnsons, and the girls are concerned about the phantom snipper who is cutting off girls’ braids.

    From the very first page, you glean an insight into several of the principal characters. From the first few pages, you can’t help but love Phryne. My opinion has not changed; I really to want to be Phryne Fisher when I grow up.

   Phryne was not born to money, so she knows hard times, but through twists of fate, is now titled, wealthy and very independent. She is kind, protective of those less fortunate, impatient with fools, has no tolerance for bigots, intelligent, observant, shoots, flies a plane, can defend herself and has a non-emotional attitude toward sex.

   Greenwood skillfully provides insight into those surrounding Phryne with simple descriptions of their bedrooms, including the fact that Jane reads Dorothy L Sayers. It is fun to look at the 1920s through Fisher’s eyes. We see the impact of the War, learn about the surrealists — which did lead to a conversation that was a bit esoteric for me — see an early film being made, and are treated to a view of life in Australia in this time.

   Greenwood creates such a strong sense of place with descriptions, she paints a visual scene. Her wonderful descriptions of food left me hungry; I’m delighted there is a recipe at the end of the book.

   The plot was a bit unusual for Phryne. As the characters are on vacation, in a sense so were we. The mystery is certainly there and although there are deaths, as Phryne says, “I got through the week without a murder.” Well, sort of; at least none at her hand, and when Phryne solves a crime, it makes perfect sense had one been paying attention.

   Dead Man’s Chest is yet another wonderful book in an altogether delightful series. From literary quotes, to delightful characters, a touch of humor, and unusual crimes to solve; I highly recommend it.

Rating:   Good Plus.

      Previously reviewed on this blog:

Death Before Wicket (by L. J. Roberts)