I have loved the television series based on this books for a long while, so eagerly picked this first book to read for the Twelves Tasks of the Festive Season.
The story starts off with Phryne Fisher being at her family's home in England and bored. The lights go off, and a necklace is missing, in mere seconds Phryne has figured out the culprit. After this display of her deductive reasoning, she is asked to check in on a Colonel's daughter (Lydia) that they believe is being harmed by her husband. Only catch is that the woman lives in Australia, not a place that Phryne is eager to return to. Phryne agrees to it because she has become bored and is not looking to settle down anytime soon. She only requests that the Colonel and his wife keep her coming to Australia a secret from their daughter.
The book then jumps with her aboard the ship, meeting Doctor Elizabeth MacMillan and then they both are ashore in Australia.
Phryne becomes involved with a lot of side characters very quickly while Greenwood juggles the main plot (Phryne figuring out what is going on with Lydia and her husband). We are introduced to characters we know from the tv series (Inspector Robinson, Bert, Cece, Dorothy, etc.)
I actually liked Phryne in the book but she is not the same as the Phryne (or Miss Fisher) we know from the tv show. This one was more selfish at times, but also pragmatic about things.
I also thought that she was not some super smart detective as much as she was not a stupid woman. Let me explain. One of the plots is Phryne and friends going after a man performing illegal abortions while also raping the girls/women who come to him. Well Phryne just asks for numbers to call from Dorothy and Bert I think and then she just calls with an accent and asks for the guy. You are telling me the police couldn't have figured that one out?
We also get more insight into how Phryne's family got their fortune after living in poverty in Australia. I liked how matter of fact Phryne was about things and why she seemed to be more comfortable with people like Dorothy than most other people in her class would be.
I did love the writing detailing how boring dinner parties were and what was expected of people at them. Reading about Phryne's clothes, stockings, shoes, hair, make-up got to be a bit much, but I ultimately liked it, because it showed back then that was how a woman made a statement. Also Phryne's clothes did a good job of showing that she may like pretty things, but was not a foolish woman.
The flow was off though. This was ultimately not a long story and I wish we had stayed with the one plot instead of having Phryne involved with a lot of little things here and there.
The setting of Australia fascinates me in the 1920s. I think that Greenwood did a good job of showing the different sides to Australia.
The ending though was a bit much for me. I think that was because of the way that the villain was tricked and overpowered. It was a little bit too over the top and slapstick for my tastes.