review: kerry greenwood, murder and mendelssohn

Phryne Fisher is luxuriating about her home when she is called into action by her favourite policeman, Detective Inspector Jack Robinson: an orchestral conductor has been killed, a musical score stuffed down his throat. It’s a touch dramatic, and Phryne is on board to find out what happened, and, well, if she must join the youthful, volatile and attractive choir, then so be it. During all this, a beloved old friend from the war appears in town, shadowing a ridiculously handsome and emotionally deficient mathematician with whom he is hopelessly besotted—and who is in grave peril. In all, it is exactly the kind of mess Phryne lives to tangle herself in.

A few times in my life I have had the pleasure of going to a fancy restaurant for a degustation. Hours are spent poring over the tiniest of dishes, all of which are immaculate in creation and decadent on the tongue. No expense is spared and the waitpeople will refill anything, even the bread basket, and treat you like you are royalty and not some bogan from the suburbs who is unused to thirteen courses, instead more often indulging in two (a bowl of spaghetti accompanied by only the tappiest of water.)

Reading Phryne Fisher is like a degustation menu at Melbourne’s fanciest restaurant. Everything is luxurious, delicious, and sensual. Immersing yourself in Miss Fisher’s world, full of espionage, choristers, murder, expensive wines, and lovers, is a true delight. It’s been a while since I last read a Miss Fisher book, but now I remember exactly why I loved the last one. Sure, people are murdered and Melbourne in 1929 was just as unpleasant and occasionally scungy as you imagine, but while you have Phryne swanning about the place in silk undergarments, knowing all the right people, concocting the most outrageous of plans and kicking bad guys square in the nuts, it’s difficult not to fall completely under her spell. It is not without fault—sometimes the book lingers on uninteresting moments, and I did get a little tired of Phryne’s virtually supernatural flawlessness in both looks and talent in far too many fields, and having to hear about her beauty from everyone every second page (yes yes, she’s super hot and smells divine, we get it)—but I derived far too much pleasure from reading this to be truly concerned. Such fun.

international review: peter swanson, the girl with a clock for a heart

possibly not the australian cover? i think ours has less suggestive nudity. NANNY STATE, etc.

Let’s just get this out there: you just can’t call anything The Girl with Etc Etc Etc anymore. It is done, that is Stieg’s thing, and even if it makes sense in the context of the book, it looks like you are trying to emulate his books, or ride on his fame, or claim you’re the next big thing. This isn’t the only book guilty of this, but I think it should stop.

What? Some reviewers manage to make it past the front cover, too? Well okay then. Luckily, Clock for a Heart has much to redeem it. George Foss is a man who does not change much, and is at his usual bar with his semi-permanent not-girlfriend Irene when he sees a woman who makes him go all weak at the knees: Liana Decter. They dated for one glorious, never-surpassed semester in college, but that relationship ended with confusion, heartbreak, a sock to the face and a police presence. Suffice it to say that while George always hoped to see Liana again, he never thought he would. And she is not here by accident.

Liana has a favour to ask of George, and while he knows she is no innocent, George is still in her thrall enough to agree. It is not, sadly, his smartest idea.

This is a clever book that delights in throwing constant spanners in the works: is Liana trustworthy even as she admits to criminal undertakings? Who are the real bad guys, and what is the truth? It’s not always easy to tell. The writing is smart and instantly enjoyable, though the sex scenes are a little cringeworthy (as one of my friends says of such scenes, no one should “enter” something unless you also “exit” it later). I barreled through it at high speed, wondering where it was all going to end up. I appreciated that George (mostly) aided the police as much as possible, though there was a moment when I wanted to smack someone for leaving their mobile phone behind in the car while heading into danger. Sometimes George’s motivations were hard to follow (how many punches to the kidney does a man need before throwing his hands up?) but to be honest, I enjoyed it far too much to care. This is a super debut. Have at it.