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What to Read #8 – Phryne Fisher

December 11, 2013

phrynePhryne Fisher is a thoroughly modern woman… of 1928.  She has black, bobbed hair like a little Dutch doll, perfectly arched eyebrows, and a red rosebud mouth.  She also carries a pearl handled revolver, drives an Hispano-Suiza rather faster than is wise, and solves mysteries.  She was an ambulance driver during WWI, flies a gypsy moth plane when the opportunity arises, and takes lovers where she pleases.
phryne 2Phryne comes from a somewhat unusual background; her father was a disgraced younger son who was banished to Australia to repent of his misdeeds.  Instead, he got married and lived in fairly content squalor until everyone else in the direct line died in, I presume, the Boer War.  At which point he, his washerwoman wife, and his shockingly behaved children were welcomed back into the bosom of British aristocracy.  Phryne took the polish and the money and then went her own way.  She ran away from boarding school to volunteer during the war and then stayed on in Paris consorting with artists and authors.  Before ending up back in Australia during her first case – Cocaine Blues.
phryne 3Phryne is very much her own person.  She has very, very modern ideas about marriage, sex, sexual orientation, hygene, family planning, women’s rights, and the servant issue.  And she’s rich enough that people pretty much let her express those opinions.  When anyone gets really unfortunate she can either snub them or shoot them, depending on the situation.
I think of her rather like a female James Bond.  She’s dangerous, and very, very good at what she does, but she’ll go her own path, no matter what.  Although, that isn’t entirely true.  Phryne has very strong family values, in the sense that she values the family she has made for herself.  She doesn’t let that connection be dictated solely by who shares her blood, but rather, who shares her heart.  She is fiercely loyal to those she takes to heart and is not at all prone to any kind of snobbery or elitism about who that is.  If you’re worth her time, she’ll give it to you.  If you aren’t, she won’t no matter who your ancestors were or what your bank balance is.
Miss Fisher appears in twenty volumes of mysteries penned by Kerry Greenwood.  She also now has her own show by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.  Season One is available here in the States via Netflix, Acorn Media, or on DVD from Amazon.  The tv series takes a number of liberties with the plots of the books, adding in an entire subplot about a sister that the book Phryne never had, but it’s still  remarkably good.  The costumes and set pieces are amazing, and the lead actress, Essie Davis is brilliant!

phryne 4

7 Comments leave one →
  1. December 11, 2013 8:04 am

    How did I never hear about this before?

    • December 11, 2013 8:07 am

      The US publisher is Poison Pen Press, who are great, but don’t have the largest publicity budget. I stumbled over the books on Audible several years ago when I was looking for more things set circa-WWI.

  2. December 11, 2013 10:37 am

    I’m watching it on Netfilx. Fun series!

    • December 11, 2013 12:23 pm

      Isn’t it great? I especially love their costume design. I follow the show over on Pinterest to see closeups and I can’t wait for Season 2 to be available!

      • December 11, 2013 12:51 pm

        I agree. Her clothes are amazing. Love all the Asian influences. I wish some of it would make a comeback. So pretty!

      • December 11, 2013 1:27 pm

        Me too! I don have the figure for most of it, but I don’t care! I’d wear it anyway.


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