Needing some light entertainment, I decided to rewatch Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. It’s a delightful show and the rewatch made me curious about the books.
Phryne, carrying the cocktail, decanted it unobtrusively into a potted palm against which she had no personal grudge, and hoped that it would not give her away by dying too rapidly.
Content warning: the book, and my review, mention sexual assault.
Cocaine Blues is the first book in the series. Miss Phryne Fisher is a wealthy socialite in 1920s England. When a diamond necklace is stolen at a dinner party, Phryne solves the case in five minutes flat. Impressed by her detective skills, another guest asks her to investigate his daughter’s illness. The daughter, Lydia, stays sickly but recovers dramatically when away from her husband. The man fears Lydia’s husband is poisoning her. Phryne accepts the case and returns to her native Melbourne to investigate. She quickly befriends a young woman named Dot, who she hires as her maid, and taxi drivers Burt and Cec. Through Burt and Cec, Phyrne becomes involved in the hunt for an abortionist named Butcher George, who rapes his clients before performing unsanitary abortions and dumping the women out on the street. Phryne’s investigation into Lydia’s illness introduces her to a ballet troupe searching for the “King of Snow” who is selling cocaine in Melbourne. Naturally, Phryne solves all three cases with aplomb.
Now have I got everything…money, gun, cigarettes, lighter…yes. Goodbye, Dot. See you tomorrow—or sometime.’
The book is more serious than the show, which surprised me. There were moments when I wasn’t sure if the characters would escape unscathed. However, the writing is fairly light and airy. I’m not sure how to rate the character development because I have so much of their stories from the show already in my head. I feel like Phryne is fairly well developed for a first novel while Dot, Cec, and Burt are more like character sketches. While cozies aren’t known for being realistic, Phyrne’s ability to solve the mysteries, even with help, borders on ridiculous. Still, it was a delightful book and I’ll definitely read the next one.