RogerBW's Blog

Queen of the Flowers, Kerry Greenwood 05 March 2017

2004 historical detection, fourteenth in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). Phryne investigates a disappeared "fast" girl, and one of her adopted daughters tries to find her original father. But will Phryne manage to appear as Queen of the Flowers at the St Kilda Festival? Of course she will.

Many other things happen too; the book feels at first like a slice of life more than a specific incident, though everything is gathered in at the (rather abrupt) end. We have runaway girls, an evil grandfather, an ineffective mother, bitchy friends, a missing father, a dying mother, elephants, an Orcadian fiddler… at times it all seems rather too busy. Most of the regular cast are here, though one who really should have been called in doesn't show up at all. (An understandable error perhaps, since she hasn't been mentioned for about ten books, but it seems like a pity.) Less understandable is that Lin Chung, Phryne's Chinese lover, now refers to her as the Jade Lady and apparently always has… except that it's always been "Silver Lady" before! This sort of small inconsistency annoys me because there seems to be no reason for it; I realise that not all authors are obsessive record-keepers, and I'm reading the books about twice as fast as they came out, but for a detective story in particular one would hope they'd care about getting the details right.

Indeed there's one inconsistency which rather spoiled the deductive process for me: a particular victim is mentioned on several occasions as having been in the water for some time, but there's no room for a prolonged immersion in the narrative that is finally pieced together. Oh well.

As a story the thing works pretty well: as with other recent books in the series, the mystery isn't the main point. Research is meticulous, and if Phryne seems unreasonably calm when one of her daughters goes missing, well, there's nothing she could do at that point anyway. A long diversion into a magic-lantern show is not as pointless as it appears. There are plenty of meals and dresses and low dives.

It is perhaps starting to get a bit formulaic, especially with the epistolary ends to chapters, but I'm still enjoying this series. This is definitely a series entry, though: I can't see it winning over a new reader who has no particular reason to care about these people. Followed by Death By Water.

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