by Kerry Greenwood
Series: Phryne Fisher #21
Publication Date: November 15, 2020
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Surrounded by secrets, great and small, the formidable Miss Phryne Fisher returns to vanquish injustice.
When a mysterious invitation arrives for Miss Phryne Fisher from an unknown Captain Herbert Spencer, Phryne's curiosity is excited. Spencer runs a retreat in Victoria's spa country for shell-shocked soldiers of the First World War. It's a cause after Phryne's own heart but what could Spencer want from her?
Phryne and the faithful Dot view their spa sojourn as a short holiday but are quickly thrown in the midst of disturbing Highland gatherings, disappearing women, murder and the mystery of the Temperance Hotel.
Meanwhile, Cec, Bert and Tinker find a young woman floating face down in the harbour, dead. Tinker, with Jane and Ruth, Phryne's resilient adopted daughters, together decide to solve what appears to be a heinous crime.
Disappearances, murder, bombs, booby-traps and strange goings-on land Miss Phryne Fisher right in the middle of her most exciting adventure.
I’ve been a fan of this series from the beginning but this one was phoned in, either by the author herself or Allen and Unwin, or, possibly, both. I still enjoyed the hell out of catching up with Phryne and friends, but in quality, this was disappointing.
Death in Daylesford is one of her longer entries, and the story meanders quite a bit across at least 3 different plot-lines taking place in two different places: Melbourne’s mystery being solved by Phryne’s three adopted kids and her assistant’s fiancé (a police detective), and one in Daylesford, a spa town about an hour away from Melbourne, spear-headed by Phryne and her assistant Dot.
The Melbourne plot could have been scrapped and I’d have never missed it. While I like Jane and Ruth as characters, I found their plot/mystery to be too Nancy Drew for my tastes. The death they investigated was tragic, and it’s solution sad, but it was superfluous to requirements.
Phryne’s mysteries were more interesting and more diabolical, but poor editing and the inclusion of the Nancy Drew parallel plot detracted significantly from what it might have been. The poor editing is obvious – and surprising – in the form of missing words, and one scene where the dead body is removed from the scene twice. Blaming the parallel plot is just speculation on my part, but so many things in Phryne’s mysteries were glossed over and she reached conclusions with no discernible process to the reader, that I have to believe Greenwood just didn’t have the page space to expand on plot points the way she might have. Which is a shame, because the plots were interesting and deserved more than they got.
In spite of all this, I enjoyed the read, and I’m thrilled to see a new Phryne Fisher mystery out, after I’d started to believe the series was over. I hope there will be more, and I hope the author and the publisher both get their groove back.