Cocaine Blues (Phryne Fisher Series #1)

Cocaine Blues (Phryne Fisher Series #1)

by Kerry Greenwood

Paperback(Large Print)

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First in series from bestselling author, Kerry Greenwood

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, now streaming on Netflix, starring Essie Davis as the honourable Phryne Fisher

The London season is in full fling at the end of the 1920s, but the Honourable Phryne Fisher—she of the green-gray eyes, diamant garters, and outfits that should not be sprung suddenly on those of nervous dispositions—is rapidly tiring of the tedium of arranging flowers, making polite conversations with retired colonels, and dancing with weak-chinned men. Instead, Phryne decides it might be rather amusing to try her hand at being a lady detective in Melbourne, Australia.

Almost immediately from the time she books into the Windsor Hotel, Phryne is embroiled in mystery: poisoned wives, cocaine smuggling rings, corrupt cops, and communism—not to mention erotic encounters with the beautiful Russian dancer, Sasha de Lisse—until her adventure reaches its steamy end in the Turkish baths of Little Lonsdale Street.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590582435
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 05/31/2006
Series: Phryne Fisher Series , #1
Edition description: Large Print
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.06(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.62(d)

About the Author

Kerry Greenwood was born in the Melbourne suburb of Footscray and after wandering far and wide, she returned to live there. She has degrees in English and Law from Melbourne University and was admitted to the legal profession on the 1st April 1982, a day which she finds both soothing and significant. Kerry has written three series, a number of plays, including The Troubadours with Stephen D'Arcy, is an award-winning children's writer and has edited and contributed to several anthologies. The Phryne Fisher series (pronounced Fry-knee, to rhyme with briny) began in 1989 with Cocaine Blues which was a great success. Kerry has written twenty books in this series with no sign yet of Miss Fisher hanging up her pearl-handled pistol. Kerry says that as long as people want to read them, she can keep writing them. In 2003 Kerry won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Australian Association.

Read an Excerpt

Cocaine Blues

A Phryne Fisher Mystery

By Kerry Greenwood

Poisoned Pen Press

Copyright © 1989 Kerry Greenwood
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-59058-385-2


Will go, like the centre of sea-green pomp ... upon her irretrievable way.

'The Paltry Nude Starts on a Voyage',

Wallace Stevens

The glass in the French window shattered. The guests screamed. Over the general exclamation could be heard the shrill shriek of Madame St Clair, wife of the ambassador, 'Ciel!Mes bijoux!

Phryne Fisher stood quietly and groped for a cigarette lighter. So far the evening had been tedious. After the strenuous preparations for what was admittedly the social event of the year, the dinner had been a culinary masterpiece—but the conversation had been boring. She had been placed between a retired Indian Colonel and an amateur cricketer. The Colonel had confined himself to a few suitable comments on the food but Bobby could recite his bowling figures for each country match for two years—and did. Then the lights had gone out and the window had smashed. Anything that interrupted the Wisden of the Country House matches was a good thing, thought Phryne and found the lighter.

The scene revealed in the flickering light was confused. The young women who usually screamed were screaming. Phryne's father was bellowing at Phryne's mother. This, too, was normal. Several gentlemen had struck matches and one had pulled the bell. Phryne pushed her way to the door and slipped into the front hall, where the fuse box door hung open, and pulled down the switch marked 'main'. A flood oflight restored everyone except the most gin-soaked to their senses. And Madame St Clair, clutching melodramatically at her throat, found that her diamond necklace, reputed to contain some of the stones from the Tsarina's collar, was gone. Her scream outstripped all previous efforts.

Bobby, who had a surprisingly swift grasp of events, gasped, 'Gosh! She's been robbed!' Phryne escaped from the babble to go outside and scan the ground in front of the broken window. Through it she could hear Bobby saying ingenuously, 'He must have broken the jolly old glass, hopped in, and snaffled the loot! Daring, eh?'

Phryne gritted her teeth. She stubbed her toe on a ball and picked it up—a cricket ball. Her feet crunched on glass—most of it was outside. Phryne grabbed a passing gardener's boy and ordered him to bring a ladder into the ballroom.

When she regained the gathering she drew her father aside.

'Don't bother me, girl. I shall have to search everyone. What will the Duke think?'

'Father, if you want to cut out young Bobby from the crowd, I can save you a lot of embarrassment,' she whispered. Her father, who always had a high colour, darkened to a rich plum.

'What do you mean? Good family, goes back to the Conquerer.'

'Don't be foolish, Father, I tell you he did it, and if you don't remove him and do it quietly the Duke will be miffed. Just get him, and that tiresome Colonel. He can be a witness.'

Phryne's father did as he was bid, and the two gentlemen came into the card room with the young man between them.

'I say, what's this about?' asked Bobby. Phryne fixed him with a glittering eye.

'You broke the window, Bobby, and you pinched the necklace. Do you want to confess or shall I tell you how you did it?'

'I don't know what you mean,' he bluffed, paling as Phryne produced the ball.

'I found this outside. Most of the glass from the window was there, too. You pushed the switch, and flung this ball through the glass, to make that dramatic smash. Then you lifted the necklace off Madame St Clair's admittedly over-decorated neck.'

The young man smiled. He was tall, had curly chestnut hair and deep brown eyes like a Jersey cow. He had a certain charm and he was exerting all of it, but Phryne remained impervious. Bobby spread out his arms.

'If I pinched it, then I must have it on me. Search me,' he invited. 'I won't have had time to hide it.'

'Don't bother,' snapped Phryne. 'Come into the ballroom.' They followed her biddably. The gardener's boy erected the ladder. Mounting it fearlessly (and displaying to the company her diamanté garters, as her mother later informed her) Phryne hooked something out of the chandelier. She regained the floor without incident, and presented the object to Madame St Clair, who stopped crying as suddenly as if someone had turned off her tap.

'This yours?' Phryne asked, and Bobby gave a small groan, retreating to the card room.

'By Jove, that was a cunning bit of detection!' enthused the Colonel, after the disgraced Bobby had been allowed to leave. 'You're a sharp young woman. My compliments! Would you come and see m'wife and m'self tomorrow? A private matter? You could be just the girl we've been looking for, bless my soul!'

The Colonel was far too firmly married and full of military honours to be a threat to Phryne's virtue, or what remained of it, so she agreed. She presented herself at 'Mandalay', the Colonel's country retreat the next day, at about the hour when it is customary for the English to take tea.

'Miss Fisher!' gushed the Colonel's wife, who was not a woman generally given to gushing. 'Do come in! The Colonel has told me how cleverly you caught that young man—never did trust him, reminded me of some of the junior subalterns in the Punjab, the ones who embezzled the mess funds ...'

Phryne was ushered in. The welcome exceeded her deserts and she was instantly suspicious. The last time she had been fawned over with this air of distracted delight was when one county family thought that she was going to take their appalling lounge-lizard of a son off their hands, just because she had slept with him once or twice. The scene when she declined to marry him had been reminiscent of early Victorian melodrama. Phryne feared that she was becoming cynical.

She took her seat at an ebony table and accepted a cup of very good tea. The room was stuffed to bursting with brass Indian gods and carved and inlaid boxes and rich tapestries; she dragged her eyes away from a very well-endowed Kali dancing on dead men with a bunch of decapitated heads in each black hand, and strove to concentrate.

'It's our daughter Lydia,' said the Colonel, getting to the point. 'We are worried about her. She got in with a strange set in Paris, you see, and led a rackety sort of life. But she's a good girl, got her head screwed on and all that, and when she married this Australian we thought that it was the best thing. She seemed happy enough, but when she came to see us last year she was shockingly pale and thin. You ladies like that nowadays, eh? But all skin and bone, can't be good ... er ahem,' faltered the Colonel as he received a forty-volt glare from his wife and lost his thread. 'Er, yes, well, she was perfectly all right after three weeks, went to Paris for a while, and we sent her off to Melbourne brisk as a puppy. Then, as soon as she arrived back, she was sick again. Here is the interesting thing, Miss Fisher: she went to some resort to take a cure, and was well—but as soon as she came back to her husband, she was sick again. And I think ...'

And I agree with him,' added Mrs Harper portentously. 'That there's something damned odd going on—beg pardon, my dear—and we want some reliable girl to find out.'

'Do you think her husband is poisoning her?'

The Colonel hesitated but his spouse said placidly, 'Well, what would you think?'

Phryne had to agree that the cycle of illness sounded odd, and she was at a loose end. She did not want to stay in her father's house and arrange flowers. She had tried social work but she was sick of the stews and sluts and starvation of London, and the company of the Charitable Ladies was not good for her temper. She had often thought of travelling back to Australia, where she had been born in extreme poverty, and here was an excellent excuse for putting off decisions about her future for half a year.

'Very well, I'll go. But I'll go at my own expense, and I'll report at my leisure. Don't follow me with frantic cables or the whole thing will be U.P. I'll make Lydia's acquaintance on my own, and you will not mention me in any of your letters to her. I'll stay at the Windsor.' Phryne felt a thrill at this. She had last seen that hotel in the cold dawn, as she passed with a load of old vegetables gleaned from the pig-bins of the Victoria Market. 'You can find me there, if it's important. What is Lydia's married name and her address? And tell me—what would her husband inherit if she died?'

'Her husband's name is Andrews, and here is her address. If she dies before him without issue, he inherits fifty thousand pounds.'

'Has she any children?'

'Not yet,' said the Colonel. He produced a bundle of letters. 'Perhaps you'd like to read these,' and he put them down on the tea table. 'They are Lydia's letters. She's a bright little thing, you'll find—very canny about money—but she's besotted with this Andrews feller,' he snorted. Phryne slipped the first envelope and began to read.

The letters were absorbing. Not that they had any literary merit, but Lydia was such an odd mixture. After a dissertation on oil stocks that would not have disgraced an accountant, she indulged in terms of such honeyed sentimentality about her husband that Phryne could hardly bear to read it. My tom-cat has been severe with his mouse because she was dancing with a pretty cat at supper last night, read Phryne with increasing nausea. And it took two hours of stroking before he became my good little kitten again.

Phryne ploughed on while the Colonel's wife kept refilling her tea-cup. After an hour she was awash with tea, and sentiment. The tone became whining after Lydia reached Melbourne. Johnnie goes out to his club and leaves his poor little mouse to pine in her mouse-house ... I was ever so sick but Johnnie just told me I'd over-eaten and went to dinner. There is a rumour that Peruvian Gold is to start their mine again. Don't put any money into it. Their accountant is buying his second car ... I hope that you took my advice about the Shallows property. The land is adjacent to a church right-of-way and thus cannot be overlooked. It will double in value in twenty years. I have transferred some of my capital to Lloyds, where the interest rate is half a percentage higher ... I'm trying baths and massage with Madame Breda, of Russell Street. I am very ill but Johnnie just laughs at me.

Odd. Phryne copied out the address of Madame Breda in Russell Street and took her leave, before she could be offered any more tea.


Or old dependency of day and night Or island solitude, unsponsered, free Of that wide water, inescapable.

'Sunday Morning', Wallace Stevens

Phryne leaned on the ship's rail, listening to the sea-gulls announcing that land was near, and watched for the first hint of sunrise. She had put on her lounging robe, of a dramatic oriental pattern of green and gold, an outfit not to be sprung suddenly on invalids or those of nervous tendencies—and she was rather glad that there was no one on deck to be astonished. It was five o'clock in the morning.

There was a faint gleam on the horizon; Phryne was waiting for the green flash, which she had never seen. She fumbled in her pocket for cigarettes, her holder, and a match. She lit the gasper and dropped the match over the side. The brief flare had unsighted her; she blinked, and ran a hand over her short black cap of hair.

'I wonder what I want to do?' Phryne asked of herself. 'It has all been quite interesting up until now, but I can't dance and game my life away. I suppose I could try for the air race record in the new Avro—or join Miss May Cunliffe in the road-trials of the new Lagonda—or learn Abyssinian—or take to gin—or breed horses—I don't know, it all seems very flat.

'Well, I shall try being a perfect Lady Detective in Melbourne—that ought to be difficult enough—and perhaps something will suggest itself. If not, I can still catch the ski season. It may prove amusing, after all.'

At that moment there came a fast, unrepeatable grass-green flash before the gold and rose of sunrise coloured the sky. Phryne blew the sun a kiss, and returned to her cabin.

* * *

Still wrapped in her robe, she nibbled a little thin toast and contemplated her wardrobe, which was spread out like a picnic over all available surfaces. She poured a cup of China tea and surveyed her costumes with a jaundiced eye.

The weather reports promised clear, mild conditions, and Phryne briefly considered a Chanel knitted silk suit, in beige, and a rather daring coat and skirt in bright red wool but finally selected a fetching sailor suit in dark blue with white piping and a pique collar. The waist dropped below her hips leaving five inches of pleated skirt, which even the parochial taste of Melbourne could not find offensive.

She dressed quickly and soon stood up in cami-knickers and silk stockings which were gartered above the knee, and dark-blue leather shoes with a Louis heel. She examined her face in the fixed mirror as she brushed ruthlessly at her perfectly black, perfectly straight hair, which fell into a neat and shiny cap leaving the nape of her neck and most of her forehead bare. She pulled on a soft dark-blue cloche, and with dexterity born of long practice, sketched her eyebrows, outlined her green-grey eyes with a thin kohl pencil, and added a dab of rouge and a flourish of powder.

She was pouring out her final cup of tea when a tap at the door caused her to dive back into the folds of the robe.

'Come in,' she called, wondering if this was to be another visit from the First Officer, who had conceived a desperate passion for Phryne, a passion which, she was convinced, would last for all of ten minutes once the Orient docked. But the answer reassured her.

'Elizabeth,' announced the caller, and Phryne opened the door and Dr MacMillan came in and seated herself on the stateroom's best chair, the only one free of Phryne's clothes.

'Well, child, we dock in three hours, so that affected young Purser told me,' she said. 'Can you spare the rest of that toast? That blighted woman in steerage produced her brat this morning at three of the clock—babies seem to demand to be born at benighted hours, usually in a thunderstorm—there's something elemental about babies, I find.'

Phryne passed over the tray—which still bore a plate of bacon and eggs and more toast than Phryne could possibly eat after a long day's famine—and surveyed Dr MacMillan affectionately.

She was forty-five if a day, and having had the formidable determination to follow Dr Garret Anderson and struggle to become a doctor, she had had no time for anything else. She was as broad and as strong as a labourer, with the same weatherbeaten complexion and rough, calloused hands. Her hair was pepper-and-salt, cut ruthlessly into a short Eton crop. For convenience, she wore men's clothes, and in them she had a certain rather rugged style.

'Come up, Phryne, and watch for the harbour,' said Dr MacMillan. Phryne slipped the sailor suit on and joined her in the climb to the deck.

Phryne leaned on the rail to watch Melbourne appear as the Orient steamed steadily in through the heads and turned in its course to find the river and Station Pier.

The city was visible, the flag on Government House announcing that the Governor was at home. It appeared to be a much larger city than Phryne remembered, though admittedly she had not been in any position to see it clearly when she had clung to the rail on the way out. Dr MacMillan, at her side, threw a foul cigar overboard and remarked, 'It seems to be a fine big city, well-built stone and steeple.'

'What did you expect? Wattle-and-daub? They aren't savages, you know, Elizabeth! You'll find it much like Edinburgh. Possibly quieter.'

'Ah well, that will be a change,' agreed the doctor. Are your trunks packed, Phryne?'

Phryne smiled, conscious of three cabin trunks, two suitcases, a shopping bag and a purse in her cabin, and seven large trunks in the hold, no doubt under a lot of sheep. Her dangerous imports into her native land included a small lady's handgun and a box of bullets for it, plus certain devices of Dr Stopes' which were wrapped in her underwear under an open packet of Ladies' Travelling Necessities to discourage any over-zealous customs official.


Excerpted from Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood. Copyright © 1989 Kerry Greenwood. Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Cocaine Blues (Phryne Fisher Series #1) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 54 reviews.
flatboat More than 1 year ago
I'm a guy, don;t like romances stories, and LOVE the Phyrne Fisher series. I listened on audio on a long commute but got my wife and daughter the books. Great entertainment in different time (1928 was a time shaped by the first world war, a different place 1928 Australia with characters from around the globe), a different society (blue bloods and communists, high life and low life, and Russian royalty on the run) and a delightful woman with very modern ideas and her interesting band of helpers, and some too believable villians in need of being removed from society. I really enjoy the length, a lot is covered, personalities revealed and never a dull boring moment. This is real Hollywood material and characters, I mean that in the best possible way. Kerry Greenwood is a wonderful writer, and with the turn of a phrase she gives you great insight and understanding. If you start here you are sure to have a great time reading subsequent books. I recommend reading the first 3 or 4 in order to get most of the characters in place. I didnt do that and enjoyed them, but knowing the characters background does help the enjoyment of later books. What else do i like, so you may have some idea if we have similar tastes? Alan Bradley, John Grisham, Michael Crichton, Tom Clancy, Orson Scott Card, David Weber, Edgar Rice Rurroughs, Robert E Howeard, amd Brian Greene. Try Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher and then her Corina Chapman series. You will be delighted.
NicoleTrist More than 1 year ago
What a fantastic read! Who wouldn't love a woman who drives fast cars, knows the intricacies of the martial arts, can take down a man twice her size and does it all while wearing white gloves, a french hairstyle and the most stylish of couture. Full Review;
harstan More than 1 year ago
It is the height of the London season, but the Honorable Phyrne Fisher is bored when the Colonel and his wife asked her to check on their daughter Lydia in Australia. She jumps at the chance. They fear that someone is poisoning Lydia because when they see her she looks sickly, but upon returning home she appears very healthy. Phyrne arrives in Melbourne loaded with baggage as she meets cabbies Bert and Cec, who take her to the Windsor Hotel.---- She meets Dorothy Bryant, who is waiting outside a certain establishment with a knife in her hands. She befriends the woman, who was almost raped by her employer¿s son before getting fried. Phyrne gets revenge on the bloke and hires Dorothy as her maid she also finds a way to meet Lydia at a soiree. She promises Cec and Bert she will help them find a butcher abortionist killing innocent girls. Phyrne also becomes entangled with a troupe of exiled Russian who seek revenge on acertain personthe person who got a family member hooked on coke. She promises to help them too as this is a part of a normal day for the reinvented Phyrne.---- This is the first Phyrne Fisher mystery, which introduces readers to the sleuthing origins of a highly regarded protagonist. She is a strong believer in women¿s rights, but works within the system to get what she wants whether it is information or sex with a partner of her choice. As always 1920s Australia is fascinating as Kerri Greenwood uses vivid descriptions to make it come alive in the mind¿s eye.----- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cocaine Blues is the first in the series of "Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries" books by award-winning Australian author, Kerry Greenwood. Australian by birth, born to poverty, and raised to wealth only by fortunes of inheritance, Miss Phryne Fisher is delightfully adventurous and provocatively "modern" in 1928 society. She has been engaged to investigate a young lady's unexplained illness by alarmed and concerned parents, and her journey to solve the riddle takes her from England to the land of her birth in distant Melbourne Australia. There she storms the bastions of Melbourne society, rescues more than one society underdog, pilots a race car at dizzying speeds, faces down corruption and cocaine smugglers, and generally beguiles and enchants nearly all those she encounters. The descriptive text is a feast for the eyes and the imagination. The reader will find delightful insights into the lifestyles of both the hoi-poloi and the commoner of the late 1920s. If you've seen the Australian ABC TV show MISS FISHER MURDER MYSTERIES, then be prepared for a pleasant surprise; the book is even more delightful than the visually entrancing portrayals of the show. Put on your finest bib and tucker, your most fashionable wrap, and jump in with both feet. A delight awaits!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent story- I love both the characters and this book's historical setting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A fun read even if you have watched the show.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The first book in a ligh-hearted, addictive series. Phryne (rhymes with shiney) is a modern woman who takes 1920's Melbourn by storm. The mysteries aren't especially difficult but they're fun & full of period detail.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not completely believable in parts, but good fun
Guest More than 1 year ago
The London Season is in full fling at the end of the 1920¿s, but Phryne finds herself bored with the usual high society trivialities. So she decides that it might be fun to try her hand at being a lady detective in Melbourne, Australia. The Colonel and his wife have asked her to look into the matter of their daughter. She has been sickly since she married and moved to Australia and they feel that there is more to it than meets the eye. Phryne leaves the tedium of English high society for Melbourne, Australia, and never looks back. From the time she arrives Phryne is entangled in mysterious goings on: poisoning, cocaine smuggling, corrupt cops and communism. Not to mention erotic encounters with a handsome Russian dancer. I really enjoyed this book. Phryne is a high spirited, delightful and memorable character who I can¿t wait to read more about. She has more fun and adventure in a day than most people have in a lifetime. It was a terrific read from beginning to end. A fun romp thru the 1920¿s yet with gripping details about the struggles of women during this time. The story line was wonderful, the characters were intriguing , the period detail was just great (love the clothing), and the dialogue spirited and witty. Phyrne Fisher is a heroine you will want to read about again and again.
Tangen 12 months ago
1920s, Australia, investigation, fun I'm so glad that I saw the TV series first! Of course the plots are only loosely resembling each other, but it really helps to have the visual images when reading about things like the Hispano Suisse! Did I mention that I prefer the original (as in books)? Loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ever. Enjoy
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I dont read fiction, butut was suggested to me so I tried it. Loved the character, and always looked forward to more.
Smiler69 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first of Greenwood's Phryne Fisher Mysteries. We are introduced to Phryne Fisher, who might at first be mistaken for a wealthy English aristocrat, though we learn she was born in Australia where she lived in poverty with her parents until the passing of a rich relation. Phryne, who now has more money than she knows what to do with, is wondering what she should do with her life. After she uncovers a jewel thief during a dinner party, a couple then asks her to investigate their son-in-law, as they suspect he might be poisoning their daughter who lives in Melbourne. Phryne doesn't hesitate to leave boring London society behind and make her way to the colonies for a bit of adventure and excitement. She finds plenty there when she encounters a communist taxi driver, meets a gorgeous Russian dancer and is on the trail of a cocaine ring that seems to be operating out of a Turkish bath house. This series might appeal to anyone who enjoys being taken back to the roaring 1920s. But there's no mistaking that it was written in modern times. The doctor friend heading the women's hospital in Melbourne is a feminist who isn't afraid to use language to describe female troubles and anatomy that would have made a 20s female author blush. Phryne isn't afraid to use her feminine allure with an attitude that might be reminiscent of the flapper girls, but probably owes more to our modern day femme fatales. But you can't help but like a girl with attitude who is also kind and caring, especially when she's dressed to perfection for every occasion, and Greenwood obviously takes great pleasure delighting us with detailed descriptions of Phryne's ever-growing wardrobe. It's all good fun and good times, with just the right amount of cheek and naughtiness, though I'd probably pass if women's fashion really isn't your thing.
TadAD on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Light-hearted fluff about a flapper who takes up private investigation in Melbourne. The plot is a bit implausible, but the characters are fun and I thought it a pleasant beach read.
mscongeniality on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The best thing I can say about Cocaine Blues is that I would have loved it when I was fifteen. Well, that and the writing style is relatively engaging. On the whole, though, this story reads like a novel length piece of wish fulfillment fanfiction.The heroine, Phryne Fisher, is an independent woman of means in the 1920s. The book starts off in London but Phryne very quickly relocates to Melbourne, Australia to try her hand at playing Lady Detective. Phryne is the epitome of Mary Sue perfection. She's gorgeous, stylish, progressive, and more intelligent than everybody around her. She's daring, creative, not afraid of getting her hands dirty, oh, and the stunning Russian ex-pat dancer from Paris is falling all over himself to land in her bed (as is his sister). The plot is a bit over the top, but still manages to be thin. The setup makes it clear from the outset what the 'big reveal' is going to be at the climax of the book which takes a lot of the fun out of it for me. The big adventure/action sequence really stretched my already extended credibility and, on a couple of levels, just fell flat. Overall, I do not recommend this book.
zina on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Greenwood is a bright, feminist, interesting writer. Some in the series are better than others, but Phryne Fisher is a 1920's female James Bond. Unique. Quick reads. Not all are available, unfortunately. Now coming out in audiobook form.
cameling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I think this is the first of the Phryne Fisher series, and having read some of the other Phryne Fisher mysteries where she's already established in Australia as a sleuth, it was interesting to meet the other characters who would in future books become her mainstay companions and understand how she came to form the relationships she had with them down the road.Not the best of her books I thought, but given that this is an early introduction to Phryne Fisher, the pace picked up halfway through and became an enjoyable read right to the end.
Vilakins on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wanted to like this. The idea is appealing, after all (and the cover very attractive): a 20s flapper who solves crime in Melbourne. However Phryne Fisher, rich, beautiful, talented, supremely confident, and desired by almost everyone she meets, is, frankly, a Mary Sue. Her appearance would almost be enough to brand her one: she is slim, beautiful, elegant, with a cap of shiny black hair (which we get told about every few pages), and dressed impeccably in the best of 20s fashion.She could be interesting had she been given some flaws or any hint of vulnerability. We are told that her childhood was very poor and that she saw her sister die of starvation and diphtheria, but none of this seems to have affected her in any way. She's a walking fashion plate who can handle fast cars and men with aplomb, and can fly planes in storms at the drop of a hat. There is no depth to her, no questioning of her wealth or regret about the past; she is shallow and ultimately just uninteresting.I also wasn't impressed with the writing (or the editing). Paragraphing is sloppy, changes of scene are not always marked by a break in text which causes confusion, scenes from different times are cut between, and the plotting is slack. The first people Phryne meets in Melbourne are obviously future stock characters, and the female doctor I thought she'd met on the boat it seems she met much earlier on the aforementioned plane flight, which I can only assume was added to increase the already long list of Phryne's accomplishments. I also have no idea why Greenwood spells "yeah" as "yair". It's unnecessary and annoying.The only character with a hint of character and real passion is Dr MacMillan, the middle-aged woman doctor with her cropped salt-and-pepper hair (we got told about that more than once too), no-nonsense attitude, and her men's clothes. I might read a book about her.
dulcibelle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is set in the 1920's. The main character, Phryne Fisher, is a "jazz baby" from the wrong side of the tracks. Born and raised dirt poor in Australia, her family comes into an English title when previous heirs die. Now living the life of the idle rich, she's not quite sure what to do with herself. She is approached by a family who fear that a daughter in Australia is being poisoned by her husband. Phryne thinks it might be "fun" to see what she can find out.There are a number of books in the series. They are short, but (based on this first one) pack a lot of charm and character development into a small space. Highly recommended - and I can't wait to dig into the next one (after I pick it up, of course!).
MagicalSibylle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I first heard of Kerry Greenwood a few years ago - her series of mystery books focusing on Phryne Fisher was presented amongst various cozy mysteries, this kind of mystery which prohibits swear words, sex or violence. I was then between two minds - ...more I first heard of Kerry Greenwood a few years ago - her series of mystery books focusing on Phryne Fisher was presented amongst various cozy mysteries, this kind of mystery which prohibits swear words, sex or violence. I was then between two minds - on the one hand, it seemed really I wasn't the target audience for this as I don't avoid all those things in my reading or indeed in real life (except for the violence part, obviously). On the other hand, I'm a huge fan of The Thin Man movie series which I suppose has elements of the cozy mystery (deaths are quick, you won't see Nora and Nick even sleeping in the same bed because of the Production Code and you won't hear them swear either (though I suspect Nora would). I didn't pick up Cocaine Blues then but it's always been at the back of my mind since.Recently, I've been wanting to check what the mystery genre had to offer me and I once again, when researching books to read, stumbled upon Phryne Fisher. 1920s, a good cover, good website - let's just try, I thought, since it seems to tick so many of my boxes. I don't have to finish it after all if it's not good enough.So happy I did! I was very pleasantly surprised by Cocaine Blues as it offered much more than I thought it would. We are introduced to Phryne Fisher, as I said, who's a rich woman who settles in Australia and solves mysteries. The book takes place in the 1920s and Phryne has all the elements of the flapper: she's high society, a great dancer and loves fashion. But there's more than that. Phryne Fisher is a free, unattached woman. In one scene she goes to church and is thoroughly bored by the sermons as she ponders that she's done a lot of what they say not to do and hasn't done a lot of what they tell people to do. She's not married and has some good times with a professional dancer. In another scene, she finds herself in the maternity ward of a hospital and explains to a nurse that she really doesn't want children - in a very funny moment, she holds a child's hand and tells him she hopes his mother will love him more than she does.Phryne may be rolling in money but she actually comes from a very poor background, something which allows her to think about not only those whom society caters for, but also those who are left in the margins: very early in the book, while she's on her way to Australia on a boat, she explains that the wealthy are given the names of two hotels to stay in and she wonders 'where the steerage passengers are advised to stay'. Her strongest friendships are with characters who have to work to live.In more ways than one, Phryne Fisher doesn't follow conventions and the setting of the 20s makes her modernity all the more believable.However, Phryne isn't the only thing I was pleasantly surprised with. The plot touches on many unexpected things: while making a strong case for the need for safe, legal abortion, it also depicts back-alley abortions and their consequences in vivid detail, something I was not expecting in a cozy. The book also introduces characters such as women doctors and shows the need for better health care for women and while showing the limited choices they are provided with, it also gives examples of inspiring female characters who are amongst the best in the book.The male characters are also very worthy of mention: one of them, a driver, provides some welcome commentary on class and assigned roles.The mystery itself is engaging and way more thought-provoking than I thought it would be. Phryne is a wonderful character to follow and I absolutely fell in love with all the secondary characters who are very decent human beings. Cocaine Blues was overall a near-perfect book: it's fun and light in places, the setting is just right, th
Kathy89 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first book in the Phryne Fisher series. She is a very modern women in the flapper/Charleston era of the 1920s. She's grown up poor but became wealthy and titled when her heirs died. She heads back to Australia to find a missing daughter who has been sending letters home to her parents who are worried about her safety. She encounters a woman with a knifewaiting for a man to walk by so she can murder him. Phyrne helps her, humiliates the man and then hires her as her maid, Dot. Needless to say she solves the case, helps the police and a friendly doctor and makes the acquaintance of two cabbies. She's a little bossy and things always work out to her satisfaction but she's fun.
riverwillow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Phryne Fisher is an amazing invention, unconventional, calculatingly wild, bright, strikingly beautiful and with a capacity for friendship across the social classes. But then her upbringing was anything but usual, she was born in poverty in Australia, but the decimation of the British aristocracy (amongst others) during WW1 ensured that her father unexpected inherited the title. Bored with society life Phryne takes a commission to investigate a possible poisoning in Melbourne and along the way gets involve in trying to uncover a brutal abortionist, the identity of the leader of a cocaine ring known as 'the King of Snow', falls in lust with a Russian dancer and tries to discover whether or not her original commission is indeed the victim of poisoning. The text hints that this is not Phryne's first adventure and I know its not her last. Really looking forward to reading further in this series.
TheLibraryhag on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Phryne Fisher returns to Australia, her homeland, at the request of a concerned father who is convinced that his daughter, Lydia, is being poisoned by her husband. Although Phryne now runs with the noble crowd, her origins were low on the social scale, so she mixes well with the posh folks and the less fortunate in Melbourne. She immediately attaches herself to a Scottish woman doctor who insists on wearing pants, two endearing cab drivers, and a cast-off ladies maid. Together, they not only investigate poor Lydia's state of affairs but also contrive to bring down a deadly abortionist and a drug lord known as the King of Snow. Oh, all in a days work for weathy lass with time on her hands.This is a delicious nugget of a book. In less than 200 pages Phryne flys from one escapade to another. I just love her and the supporting characters. I think the book reflects the attitudes and conditions for 1920's Melbourne pretty well. I am really looking forward to her next adventure.
Yllom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the start of a series that was originally published in Australia that have recently been republished here. Phryne (rhymes with brine-y) Fisher is an independent 1920s female sleuth, who solves a jewel theft while bored in England, and then moves to Melbourne to investigate the mysterious illness of the daughter of a family friend. Meet the interesting cast of characters that you will come to know and love in subsequent books. Phryne is feisty, wealthy, and enjoys fine clothing, fine food, and fine men.
richardderus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First mysteries aren't to be read for their mystery value, but rather for their potential to amuse and engross one in the series character. I offer my dearly beloved Russell Quant's series debut, "Amuse Bouche", as evidence...moderately good mystery craftsmanship, wonderful character development. Another example, perhaps better known to all and sundry, is Donna Andrews's "Murder with Peacocks"...promising craftsmanship, delicious character building.This book is no exception. The mystery is ~meh~ but the sleuth and her supporting cast are either immediately endearing or anathema. I fall on the endearing side because 1) the 1920s are very interesting to me, and the series is set in 1928, and 2) Australia fascinates me. Phryne, our heroine, is a nicely imagined flapper of the day, and her background (more on this anon) is pleasantly complicated which goes a long way to explaining how she got to be the free spirit that her social milieu would not obviously produce.Melbourne, Australia, isn't exactly on any international map as a cultural hotspot. A book set there has a lot of 'splainin' to do, to quote Ricky Ricardo from "I Love Lucy". Greenwood does comparatively little of this 'splainin' and that is a problem for this reader. Greenwood also shorts the background of Phryne, named for a famous prostitute of Classical Greece...what the hell?!? We really see here, more or less, a character sketch, a piece designed to introduce a particular attitude and mood, to the reader.The book itself is rather too short. This goes a long way to explain the missing details I've pointed out, and the others I can't comment on without the dread spoilers. Had I bought this hardcover edition for $25, I would be a lot more testy than I am in my review. A trade paper edition for $12 would have irked me, and a mass market edition for $7 would merit a grumble.And that's a good sign! I liked every one of these series characters and I wanted more of them. Several incidental characters could profitably bear beefing up too, like Sasha the dancer and his Princess granny; I suspect, though, that somewhere in the next 15 or so books these folks will reappear.I've already read book two in the series, review forthcoming, and have the library looking for three and four. So do I recommend the series, flaws and all? Yes. Most definitely I do. I caution against getting your expectations too high, only because I want Kerry Greenwood to have your business for all sixteen books in the series. She's a writer with the pleasant and rare gift of being fun to read from giddy-up to whoa.