Friday, March 22, 2013

Every lady needs a hobby

 
Although the events in Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries take place nearly 100 years ago (the late 1920s, to be exact), the heroine of the series, Miss Phryne Fisher, is a thoroughly modern woman.  Although she is now independently wealthy, she has known poverty and hardship in her life.  This doesn't make her any less dashing as she zooms around Melbourne, collecting male admirers and solving crimes in this 13-part series based on the novels by Kerry Greenwood.

The action begins with Phryne (pronounced FRY-nee) arriving in Melbourne.  She continually scandalizes her Aunt Prudence, but manages to get involved in solving the murder of an acquaintance's husband right away.  Her success in the case, as well as the fun she has in outsmarting the police, make her decide to offer her services as a Lady Detective.

Aunt Prudence, shocked yet again
by Phryne's behavior!
Along the way, she has a talent for picking up waifs and strays.  Her first, the maid/companion, is Dot Williams.  Dot was dismissed by her previous employer, and Phryne takes pity on her.  Dot soon becomes invaluable, both as an undercover agent and as someone who is highly skilled in the domestic arts -- something Phryne has no time for.  She also becomes a foster mother to an orphaned pick-pocket named Jane.  Jane becomes something of a substitute for Phryne's younger sister, Janey, who disappeared when they were children.  What happened to Janey is eventually revealed, but in the meantime, it seems to be the only thing that causes Phryne some sadness in the whirlwind of her life.


Phryne has an outstanding wardrobe (it goes without saying) and throughout the series she continually amazes the viewer with her skills.  She's fluent in Mandarin, speaks Russian ("passably," she claims), instructs neighborhood girls in social graces and judo, wields chopsticks with no problem, and can fly a plane.  We also see glimpses of her past, working as a nurse in World War I and posing nude for an artist in Paris.

The cases she takes on also show her sense of justice.  There are many conflicts that she must resolve, including many star-crossed romances: interracial, Protestant-Catholic, and homosexual relationships are all accepted as perfectly acceptable and normal to Phryne, even though the rest of society might be scandalized.  She also steps in to reunite long-lost relatives, and in her spare time, helps to resolve a labor dispute.  There truly is no end to her talents!

I really enjoyed watching the (mostly) carefree Phryne sail her way through Melbourne between the wars.  Her overall vitality and her compassion for all makes her a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable character.  You can't help but root for her, even if she sometimes puts herself in unnecessary danger!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries from Acorn Media in exchange for this review

Final Verdict for Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries:  Four Gherkins, for being a delightful look at a thoroughly modern lady detective

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