by Kathleen Costa
Not only in America were the 1920s ‘roaring’ with jazz clubs, bordellos, gangsters, and emancipated women. Phryne (pronounced FRI-nee, rhymes with shiny) Fisher Detective novels, penned by Kerry Greenwood, are definitely ‘roaring’ with stories a bit sexier than your typical ‘cozy’ and exploring some adult themes and behaviors, but the humor is quirky, clever, and well worth watching. Perfect for television, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries first aired in Australia in 2012, and now has reached America.
Due to tragic wartime events a British peerage has fallen on Phryne’s father granting her money and the title of The Honorable Phryne Fisher. She has come to join 1928 Melbourne society, but not as your typical society woman. She is bold and independent, swears (well, ‘damn’), drives a car, flies a plane, and frequently wears trousers. She portrays a bohemian flamboyance, but maintains class and style — oh, the fashions, hairstyles, and hats…I love the hats!
The series opens with an episode based on Greenwood’s first novel, Cocaine Blues. Entering Melbourne society kicks off to a murderous start. Arriving for tea, Miss Fisher (Essie Davis) is met with tragic news. John Andrews, the wealthy husband of a dear friend, is dead and her friend, Lydia sickened. Phryne begins to investigate immediately, frustrating the detective in charge. “Every lady needs a hobby,” she explains. Later a young woman, who left Andrews’ employment, has been found to have procured an illegal abortion from Butcher George ending up in the hospital on the brink of death. This and other clues send the investigation into the wicked Melbourne underworld of drug smuggling, illegal abortions, and handsome thieves.
Off to uncover the truth she is asked. “Why do you think you can run off on your own?” She retorts holding her trusty gold, pearl-handled revolver, “Because I’m carrying a gun!” (Purists may be disappointed to find the gorgeous gun is a Smith & Wesson Model 19, a type not made until 1955, but it matches her dress.) When the truth is finally revealed, our heroine may just lose before she can win, but her signature cleverness and resolve wins out. Knowing she has a knack for investigating, she celebrates her new business venture with friends. It is announced to all, “May I introduce ‘The Honorable Miss Fisher’…Lady Detective.” And so begins the adventure.
Throughout the series Phryne’s endearing compadres offer their own special talents with the investigations. First, adorable Dorothy ’Dot’ Williams (Ashleigh Cummings), ladies’ maid/companion becomes a dear friend and a pretty good detective herself. Then, Detective Inspector John “Jack” Robinson (Nathan Page), at first reluctant then eager, includes Phryne in official investigations…stirring up a possible love connection? Next, Constable Hugh Collins (Hugo Johnstone-Burt), handsome and ambitious, is smitten with ‘Dottie’ joining her on some of the ‘errands’ she runs to gather clues. Last, there are working-class and devout Communists Bert Johnson and Cec Yates, Mr. Butler (the butler), and close friend Dr. Elizabeth “Mac” Macmillan.
It’s ‘the bees knees’ and a great way to channel your inner ‘flapper.’ Although Ovation Network is airing episodes every Saturday night, I had my own ‘April Showers’ flooding myself with all 34 episodes fortuitously found on YouTube. Each episode has a new murder, but also provides a glimpse into Phryne’s past as a WWI nurse and travels in Paris and the Orient, her humble beginnings and a missing sister, and challenges with her father the Baron. I loved it all and look forward to my date with Phryne re-joining her on the adventures, very jealous of her gorgeous bob and wardrobe.
This series has earned 5/5 Flapper Hats with Feathers!
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Phryne and Jack “Let’s Misbehave”
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