Earthly Delights – Kerry Greenwood

When you prefer Golden Age detective fiction (by which I mean anything of the Christie/Sayers era of about 1900-1960), it can be tricky to find good, contemporary such novels. So many seem to think that what readers really want is a thriller, in the style of James Patterson, all fast-paced and action-movie-like.

And maybe that’s true of a lot of readers. But if the story in front of me is so very action-movie-like, I do much prefer to watch it. It doesn’t need to be a cosy Poiret-style detective novel for me to like it. Just slower, with chapters longer than three pages of wide-spaced words.
So I was quite pleased with Earthly Delights, by Kerry Greenwood, creator of Miss Phryne Fisher.
Set in Melbourne, which I will admit to not knowing, except through Miss Fisher, and I’m not sure that 20s Melbourne is the same as modern Melbourne.
Earthly Delights follows Corinna Chapman, a baker who finds a junkie in the alley behind her shop one morning and a letter accusing her of being a scarlet woman pushed through the letter-box, as she tries to work out what’s going on. Especially when her neighbour Mistress Dread also receives such a letter. Mistress Dread does not take kindly to this accusation.
I like the characters, Mistress Dread in particular, and the cats which patrol the bakery to keep out any rodents.
If you like Miss Fisher, give Corinna a try.

Miss Phryne Fisher Investigates

When it comes to my reading choices, I do like a nice, cosy murder-mystery. The thrilling, mile-a-minute, action-packed versions of James Patterson and the like, are not what I want to sit down to with a cup of tea and a biscuit. They’re just too energetic.

I much prefer the likes of Poirot, Marple, Holmes, Hannisyde and Hemingway – and now Miss Phryne Fisher.

I discovered Miss Fisher via the quite wonderful Australian TV adaptation, on Netflix, and was hooked from the first note of the theme tune. The books, though, I see have been floating around since the ’80s.

Phryne (named after the courtesan of Athens, rather than Psyche the nymph because her father was drunk at the christening) is a ’20s flapper, moving to Melbourne because, firstly, London is becoming boring, and secondly, she’s been asked to investigate the curious illness of the daughter of a neighbour, who married an Australian. Having grown up in poverty in Australia, and whose family only inherited the title and wealth because of the Great War, it feels like going home to Phryne. Her assignment is quite straight-forward: to find out if this daughter is being poisoned by her husband.

Only, of course, things are never that easy, and Phryne becomes involved in all manner of interesting things, starting with the hunt for an illegal abortionist and ending with a drugs ring.

For a cosy mystery, it is actually quite gritty, but it’s done with a light touch. I’m definitely going to find the other books, because I have to wait for season 3 to come out on Netflix and I can’t do without Phryne and Jack (I’m already near the end of season 2 for the second time), and I’d like to see where the series has deviated from the original. And I want to find out where Murdock Foyle comes into it, since he wasn’t in the first book.