Friday, June 29, 2012

SPL Shelf Life [adult]


A Question of Death: An Illustrated Phryne Fisher Treasury by Kerry Greenwood@SPL: FIC Green
What was old is new again, the Roaring Twenties are fashionable once more. Cropping up in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, and HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, the recent Shelf Life-reviewed book Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin, about four female writers of the ’20s, has been out of the library ever since Shauna’s review hit the paper. Now meet the fictional detective of the flapper set, the Honourable Phyrne Fisher.
As someone who appreciates the bundles of money and title her family inherited that brought them out of poverty, Phyrne openly adores her clothes, alcohol and men – not to the extent of Zelda Fitzgerald, however – and in this illustrated edition of short stories, she shares some of her favourite fashions, adventures and cocktail recipes of the 1920s (although the author advises not indulging in too many green chartreuses).
The colourful illustrations by Beth Norling are reminiscent of Ert√© (whose name Phryne drops in an included “interview”), but these are second banana to the stories themselves, which perfectly illustrate the clash of two worlds – the conservative, class-conscious previous generation and the rather freer, more bohemian world of the (admittedly) wealthy flapper set. Australian by birth, English by inheritance and jet-setter by choice, Phryne solves each case with a cool nerve and a few trusty associates – her maid Dot, her friend Dr. Elizabeth MacMillan plus a few others who return now and then.
These short stories are a perfect introduction to Phryne and her wonderfully described era, and if you like these stylish and glamourous mysteries, there is a whole series of full novels out there to enjoy as well. And although the series was televised in 2012 as Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, it was on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, so we will have to wait awhile to catch it in North America. You may want to stock up on gin and tonic in any case.
This review appeared in The Stratford Gazette on June 21, 2012. Written by Robyn Godfrey, Librarian.

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