RogerBW's Blog

Murder on the Ballarat Train, Kerry Greenwood 28 September 2016

1991 historical detection, third in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). Everyone in one of the carriages on the overnight train to Ballarat is chloroformed; Phryne retains just enough consciousness to shoot out the window and let in some air. When everyone recovers, it's found that an elderly passenger has vanished. But why?

Another double-stranded mystery here, with the passenger's daughter employing Phryne to look into what happened, and an amnesiac girl on the train whom Phryne takes up since nobody else seems to want to. Again the actual detection is all pretty straightforward, and there's not much in the way of false leads, though the question of motivation is left open until surprisingly late.

Rather unexpected is the way Phryne takes the abandoned girl, and her found-sister, into her own household; considering her habits, and her preference for avoiding children as seen in Flying Too High, it seems a huge reversal to put herself permanently in loco parentis and something that should perhaps have been approached with a bit more soul-searching. (Though, to be fair, Phryne isn't the soul-searching type; she makes a decision and does.)

There are more uncomfortable subjects dealt with in a casual manner, and more good performances from the secondary cast. Nothing stellar here but a solid series entry. Followed by Death at Victoria Dock.

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