Blood and Circuses
by Kerry Greenwood
Blood and Circuses is my second foray into Kerry Greenwood’s Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. Phryne Fisher is recruited by some carnival workers to investigate mysterious problems with the circus they work for, a failing endeavor named Farrell’s. The mystery begins commonly enough, but as Phryne goes undercover as a bareback rider, she learns about the stratified and well ordered world of the circus. There, the trapeze artists have the most prestige, carnival workers are second class citizens, and Gypsies are low life.
Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Jack Robinson, Sargeant Terence Grossmith, and Constable Tommy Harris are up to their necks with gangster warfare and the disturbing murder of a circus member known as both Christopher and Christine. The source of these crimes seems to connect with the troubles of the circus, but it is hard to discover just how they are related.
In the process of these investigations, the reader learns more of Phryne’s background–some of the things that helped form her character. Several moral issues are addressed: an audience’s hunger for disaster in the circus ring, the need of people to order their society in classes and then discriminate based on the labels they attach to each group, the disparagement of people who are different with the label of “freak,” and the emotions and needs of those born with a physically inconclusive gender. Phryne faces personal issues when she chooses to live in deprivation, giving up her creature comforts, her safety, and her status in the name of relieving her boredom and helping others.
Blood and Circuses is a convoluted mystery, but all of the plot lines are explained in the end. It is not just an exciting tale of adventure. There are philosophical elements which invite Miss Fisher and the reader to engage in a bit of self-examination without even a touch of preachiness.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Poisoned Pen Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Mystery, Historical Fiction
Notes: 1. #6 in the series, but could be read as a standalone
2. some bad language and a number of sexual encounters, but the emotions are described more than the physical aspects of the encounters.
Publication: March 7, 2017–Poisoned Pen Press
Sargeant Terence Grossmith was huge. His expanse of blue tunic was as wide as a tent. He had thinning brown hair and large limpid brown eyes, which seemed to hold an expression of such placid benevolence that hardened criminals had occasionally found themselves confessing to him out of a sense of sheer incongruity.
[speaking of Detective Inspector Jack Robinson]…always at the start of a case, he felt downhearted and tired. There was so much evil in the world. “O cursed spite! That ever I was born to set it right,” he quoted to himself. The Mechanics’ Institute English literature classes which his wife had taken him to, much against his will, had been very useful. A man could always rely on Shakespeare to hit the nail on the head. Robinson wondered how he had done without him.
Phryne speaking: “…what’s fascinating about the circus is the people. And I don’t expect you to like them, Dot. They aren’t respectable.” “That’s why you like them,” commented Dot. Phryne looked at her companion’s reflection in the mirror and grinned.