RogerBW's Blog

Blood and Circuses, Kerry Greenwood 06 October 2016

1994 historical detection, sixth in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). Phryne goes undercover in a circus to try to find out who's sabotaging it; and a performer who's moved on from it is accused of murder.

The series takes a highly sensationalist turn this time, with a ceiling dripping blood, raving alcoholics, bar brawls, gang wars, lions, and a double-barrelled shotgun.

This is a fish-out-of-water story, as Phryne has to leave behind the trappings of wealth to find out what's going on at Farrell's Circus; but she seems to spend an awful lot of time whining to herself about how she misses those trappings, and coming close to a breakdown. Not perhaps implausible, but it makes her unsympathetic, and the previous five books have shown us a Phryne who's strong quite separately from her money, and who's been no stranger to poor living; what's worse, the plot means that most of the usual supporting cast are out of the picture.

Meanwhile in Melbourne the principal investigator is an entirely new policeman; it's a pity this couldn't have landed with Hugh Collins, who'd have had an excuse to talk about the case with Dot.

This book's clearly trying to get away from accusations of being formulaic, and parts of it work well, but having Phryne plucked out of her setting is a misstep. Followed by Ruddy Gore.

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