Reviews by L. J. Roberts


KERRY GREENWOOD – Death in Daylesford. Phryne Fisher #21. Poisoned Pen Press, hardcover, June 2021. Setting: Australia-1920s.

First Sentence: It was a lazy, late summer’s morning in St. Kilda.

   Miss Phryne Fisher and her ever-loyal maid, Dot, are off to visit the Spa at Hepburn being run for shell-shocked veterans of the Great War. Their visit coincides with the Highland Games, but it is not much of a celebration as people begin dying. And what about the women who have been disappearing? And with Phryne away, her two adopted daughters, Jane and Ruth, along with handyman Tinker, join forces with DS Hugh Collins to solve the murder of the girls’ classmate.

   Ah, the joy of the Honorable Phryne Fisher of 221B, The Esplanade, in Melbourne, Australia in this multi-plot story where all the characters are fully developed and wonderfully realized. Phryne is a strong, independent, character with a view of relationships that is more traditionally male, yet completely accepting— “Phryne made a mental note to the effect that medical opinions stating that women who were same-sex attracted must be neurotic were so much ill-informed drivel.”

   Those new to the series are introduced not only to Phryne and learn of her family history, but meet her current family and those who are associated with her. With the secondary characters, Greenwood cleverly and oh-so-subtly includes a soupçon of doubt as to their honesty.

   Greenwood begins each chapter with an excerpt from a poem or literature, adding a certain grace to the story. She paints verbal pictures; places, things, and most of all, people become three-dimensional through her words. “A generalized sense of doom hung in the atmosphere…  ‘I don’t know how this farm strikes you, Dot, but it’s a little bit too Thomas Hardy for my liking.'”

   This is not a book to read when hungry as even the simplest meal leaves one salivating– “fish, beef, and chicken pies.”— and–  “broccoli has a sauce made of lemon juice, garlic and butter, and the carrots have fresh ginger, sesame seeds and honey. Oh, and butter.'”

   No light, fluffy cozy is this. The murders are numerous, the issues, whether related to the crime being solved by the group in Melbourne, or by Phryne and Dot, are stark. Greenwood makes it clear that issues of today are not new but were relevant in the 1920s as well.

   Death in Daylesford is chock full of mysteries all of which are solved in yet the coziest of manners. There are numerous characters to keep straight, so it’s best to keep each mystery separate in one’s mind. No matter what, it is wonderful to have Phryne and the gang back again.

Rating: VG Plus.