Monday, April 3, 2023

Kerry Greenwood's Cocaine Blues (Phryne Fisher #1)

"A young man in one's bedroom is capable of being explained, but a corpse is always a hindrance."

Phryne Fisher has just moved from London to Melbourne. It's the 1920s and though she's good at it, she's bored with fast life in Europe. (Dinner parties, but also tangoing with gigolos in Paris and exposing crooked cricketeers.) She could afford that fast life because, after the convenient deaths of a few intervening heirs, she came into possession of a fortune in England, but she'd grown up poor in Australia. So she had both street smarts and resources.

The perfect combination for an amateur detective.

As a bit of added incentive, some English acquaintances ask her to look in on their daughter, because they're worried about how she's doing with her husband. 

Now I have to say, as a mystery, this is only so-so. The title rather gives away the motivation for the plot, and I'm afraid I saw the solution to the quest for the cocaine pingpin (to quote a former president) pretty early on. Doesn't matter. Fisher's a character one wants to read about: her affairs, her clothes, her accomplices. It makes a story both witty and engaging.

I don't know the series well, but several of the ongoing characters (though not all) make their first appearance here: her maid Dot, her two wheel/muscle men, Cec and Bert, her friend on the force, always convenient for an amateur detective. A wonderful start to the series.

And what I hadn't realized until I did a little math, it came out in 1989, and so it just squeezes in for the Silver Age Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt.  We'll go with that extravagant strand of pearls.

Vintage Mystery, Silver, Jewelry


  1. I think I have one of her books on the shelves but have never really felt like picking it up. Perhaps time to read it.

  2. Replies
    1. I don't know the series well, but the now two I've read certainly appealed to me, even if I did know who the villain was in this one. Good characters, not too bloody. I liked them. I'm likely to read more.

  3. Never heard of the series, nor the author.
    So, can this be categorized into cozy mystery?

    1. Not exactly, I guess... ;-)

      Phryne is an amateur detective, and Greenwood doesn't dwell on any violence, which I really like. There's a romantic subplot, also a favourite thing of mine.

      They do break into the drug kingpin's lair, and have to get rid of the thugs, though that's more outwit than out-shoot.

      And there's way more sex than in what I would call a proper cozy, though anything non-consensual is offstage (and punished in the end).

  4. I love the Phryne books too.

    There are now 22 in the series. Book 2 sees her move to Australia for good, so the rest of the stories are set in and around Melbourne (although there is one memorable visit to Sydney). I've read about 13 or 14 of them so far. They are a lot of fun.

    1. I read one a while ago & I liked it but it didn't catch fire for me. This one did. I'll be hunting up some more.

  5. Phryne does sound like a fun character. And that top quote about corpses always being a hindrance made me giggle.