by Kerry Greenwood
The inimitable Phryne Fisher and her friend Bunji find themselves in the middle of a very physical Chinese family dispute, which is only a subplot in this tale, as they are on their way to the theatre to enjoy a presentation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera Ruddigore. Following that initial conflict, they make their way to His Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne, and the reader is presented with the one weak portion of the novel. In the guise of encouraging Bunji, a very minor character in the book, to stay and enjoy the opera, Phryne summarizes the plot of the opera for her. Greenwood is attempting to share background for her unfolding story which centers around an old and a new murder and mysterious occurrences at the “Maj.” Both the cast and the characters they play are important in Ruddy Gore’s storyline, but this portion of the book, really only part of a chapter, was more extensive than necessary.
With the background sufficiently established, the plot moves quickly as Phryne is initially mystified, and then gradually peels off the layers of this puzzle. As always with a Phryne Fisher novel, there are descriptions of her delightful ensembles and her romantic encounters. Dot, her companion, is called in to help with the investigation. Detective Inspector Jack Robinson views Miss Fisher as more likely to obtain information from the cast than he is, and so they cooperate and share information.
The Chinese connection through her love interest, Lin Chung, presents the thread of racial intolerance and prejudice from both sides. Lin and Phryne discuss the history of the Chinese in Australia and how the Chinese have adapted and coped. Phryne is the subject of discrimination herself from the Chinese and handles it well.
Phryne Fisher is undoubtedly rich as evidenced by her spending and lifestyle. She is not selfish, however, and her magnanimity occurs on a personal level. In this story she identifies a situation in which a stage boy with few options but much promise is being abused by his alcoholic father. Phryne doesn’t try to change the world, but she does change this boy’s world by providing him with opportunities. She doesn’t make him a charity case, suggesting that he repay her at a future date. She is also resourceful in engaging the cooperation of others in helping him.
Ruddy Gore is a wealth of incidental information about the theatre, actors, technical people, and management. All of these play a role in the mysteries which are resolved in the end, quite satisfactorily, leaving the reader anticipating further adventures starring Phryne Fisher.
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: #7 in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries but reads well as a standalone
Publication: April 4, 2017—Poisoned Pen Press
“He will always get everything that he wants and never get the one thing which he really desires—that’s how it works with bounders,” observed Phryne.
No harm in him but as self-centred as a gyroscope.
“Have you ever heard of hiraeth?” he asked, his eyes staring sadly across endless seas. “No, what is that?” “A Welsh thing, hard to translate. ‘Yearning,’ perhaps. ‘Longing’ is more like it. All of us have it, however happy we are. The yearning for home, even if we shook the dust off our shoes in loathing and swore never to return to the cold damp streets and the cold narrow people and the flat beer and the chapels fulminating endlessly against sin.”