RogerBW's Blog

Murder on a Midsummer Night, Kerry Greenwood 18 June 2018

2008 historical detection, seventeenth in Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series (1920s flapper detective in Australia). As Melbourne suffers under a post-Christmas heat wave, Phryne takes on two cases: a junk dealer's suicide, which his mother earnestly believes is nothing of the sort, and the whereabouts of a possible illegitimate child from sixty years ago. Minor spoilers.

Taken as a pure detective story, this isn't of the best; one of the unwritten rules is that the murderer should be a person we've met, and apart from some cutaway scenes at the ends of chapters (which make the villainy obvious) we don't. The questions really are more about how and why the murder was committed, and what else might be going on.

The two strands work well together, with different styles of investigation and various sorts of horrible people; the obnoxious spiritualist Bright Young Things are perhaps a bit much, but the respectable family frantically burying its secrets is just as vile in a different direction. One of the most interesting characters is the murder victim, and even with the murderer caught there's still a sense of loss.

This is very much a "domestic" story, with Phryne and her constructed family working together, and cosy scenes that are unrelated to the cases. Dot does some independent investigation, which is a thread we haven't seen much of for a while. People are fairly easily classified as Nice or Nasty, but this doesn't impair the solution of the mystery.

I think that this book is much better for the long-term fan than as a first exposure to Phryne: yes, you can pick up who's who, but without the context there'd be less emotional involvement. And there are some questions left unanswered. But all in all it's good fun and a welcome addition to the series. Followed by Dead Man's Chest.

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Previous in series: A Question of Death | Series: Phryne Fisher | Next in series: Dead Man's Chest

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