Reviews by L. J. Roberts

KERRY GREENWOOD Death Before Wicket

  KERRY GREENWOOD – Death Before Wicket. Allen & Unwin, Australia, trade paperback, 1999. Poisoned Pen Press, US, hardcover, January 2008; softcover, March 2008.

Genre:   Historical/private eye. Series character:   Phryne Fisher, 10th in series. Setting:   Australia-Golden Age/1920s.

First Sentence:   Sydney struck Phryne Fisher, quite literally, in the face.

   Phryne Fisher is off to Sydney for a bit of cricket, sightseeing and to attend the Artist’s Ball. She is barely off the train when two young men, students at the University of Sydney, ask for her help. Exams have been stolen from a safe in the dean’s office and their friend has been accused.

   Phryne is also soon asked by Dot, her maid, to find her sister who has disappeared leaving behind two small children with Dot’s less-than-desirable brother-in-law.

   Phryne (pronounced Fry-knee) Fisher may be my all-time favorite character. Ms. Greenwood has done a wonderful job creating her, and with vivid descriptions of clothes, food and her life, she seems very real.

   In this book, we learn even more of her childhood, which was very poor and provides an excellent contrast to her present life of wealth. Phryne is smart, clever, independent, and sexy with a wonderful attitude toward affairs while being very loyal and caring.

KERRY GREENWOOD Death Before Wicket

   Greenwood is smart in creating the contrasting character of her maid Dot, whom Phryne rescued, is subdued, Catholic and uncertain how much Anglicans knew about religion when she gives Phryne a St. Michael’s metal for protection.

   This is not your traditional cozy, as there are scenes that are quite sexually explicit. But the book also deals with issues. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is under construction. There are interesting observations on the damage done by the original Brits to Australia and the problems which still exist in Sydney versus Melbourne, Phryne’s home.

   The books also deals with the beliefs of the Aborigines and the belief in magic with a very good line that although one may not believe in magic, one can believe in belief.

   In Death Before Wicket Ms. Greenwood creates a well-rounded story with excellent dialogue and a very good twist at the end. It includes just the right touch of humor as in a scene where the protagonist does a delightful send-up of the too-stupid-to-live, gothic-novel heroine.

   This book was a joy to read and I always look forward to the next book in the series.

Rating:   Very Good.

Editorial Comments:   According to the Phryne Fisher website, there are now 17 books in the series, with an 18th due out in October. Poisoned Pen Press has been publishing them in the US, but as I far as I’ve been able to tell, in no particular order. I wish the Poisoned Pen website had been designed for users to maneuver around in a lot more easily than it is, but unfortunately it is not.