Phryne Fisher’s high flying mystery
by George Ivanoff - July 4th, 2012
In March I wrote about Kerry Greenwood’s first Phryne Fisher novel, Cocaine Blues (see “Phryne’s cocaine blues”), originally published back in 1989. I enjoyed it a great deal and wanted to read a second novel before I started watching the television series. And so here I am, to tell you about Flying Too High.
Originally published in 1990, Flying Too High is the second novel to feature the sassy Lady Detective, Phryne Fisher. Ridiculously wealthy, but from a background of poverty, Miss Fisher wanders the streets and society circles of 1920s Melbourne, solving crime — and bedding the occasional eligible young man. As with the first novel, Greenwood follows the same formula of multiple cases that become intertwined. This time around it is the kidnapping of a young girl for ransom, and the murder of a much-detested patriarch.
As with the first book, I found the mystery and crime elements in this one to be interesting but unremarkable, with nothing particularly surprising. In fact, I thought the kidnapping case to be occasionally unconvincing.
It is the characters and locales that set this book apart from other crime novels. Phryne is such a deliciously mischievous and over-the-top character. Not only does she solve crime, bed handsome men and drive a fast sports car, but in this book we find out that she can fly a plane — not to mention the fact that she is quite nonchalant about walking along the wings of a Tiger Moth while in flight. This woman has nerves of steel!
The regular supporting characters are all fascinating and endearing in their own ways, particularly Bert and Cec, the communist cabbies with hearts of gold. This book also introduces the character of flying ace ‘Bunji’ Ross, an old friend of Phryne’s. She’s a great character, who I hope will show up in the other books.
Of course, there are also fabulous clothes, wonderful food and alcohol, and society aplenty.
My favourite moment in the book is when Phryne and ‘Bunji’ are dining out at the Windsor. Although Phryne is in her element, ‘Bunji’ is a fish out of water, dismayed by the menu choices…
… she sat down in the Windsor’s plush dining room and stared hopelessly at the menu. ‘I say, old girl, I don’t really go for all this stuff, you know. I suppose steak and chips is out of the question?’
‘Steak and chips you shall have, Bunji, old bean,’ agreed Phyrne, turning to the waiter. ‘Filet mignon and pommes frites for Madam, and bring me lobster mayonnaise. Champagne,’ she added to the hovering wine waiter. ‘The Widow ’23.’
Anyone who orders a vintage Veuve Clicquot by asking for ‘The Widow’, gets the thumbs up from me.
I enjoyed this book just as much as the first, and I would certainly be happy to read some more. But I’m taking a break from Phryne’s literary adventures to watch the television series, which I will review soon over at my other blog, Viewing Clutter.
BTW, if there are any Miss Fisher fans out there who would like to WIN a Blu-ray copy of the television series, I’m currently running a giveaway on Viewing Clutter. But be quick, entries close this Friday.
Catch ya later, George
Check out my DVD blog, Viewing Clutter.
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