'Miss Fisher Mysteries' are bonzer fun in any form

'Miss Fisher Mysteries' are bonzer fun in any form
Source: Reusableart.com

A good friend recently introduced me to "Miss Fisher Mysteries," both the books and the TV series. I needed the books for a while before I could follow the TV series properly, because they're set in Melbourne, Australia, and its environs -- and I have little chance to tune my ear for accents to Australian words and tones.

The Honourable Phryne (pronounced FRY-nee) Fisher is an amateur detective in 1920s Melbourne, getting into trouble in high style and out of it again. I needed to borrow a couple of Kerry Greenwood's admirably concise books, which last for fewer than 200 pages, before I could follow the accompanying TV series, which is shown in Chicago on WTTW Prime (PBS).

But that was just me tuning my ear, not any problem with the story-telling. Not a clue is out of place, and the writing is admirably clear even when Australian dialect (such as bonzer for "first-class, excellent") is used. Since Miss Fisher grew up in England, she uses clear Standard English easily, so cases can be lessons in vocabulary as well as '20s style.

The puzzles are also top-notch, requiring Phryne to get the police at times quicker than she can say Jack Robinson -- Inspector Jack Robinson, who is a sort of Lestrade to Miss Fisher's Holmes.

That's an intentional mention, by the way. An early book (which I haven't yet seen on TV) explains that she chose her house on a street called The Esplanade because it was number 221. In a nod toward Baker Street, she simply added a "B" to her address. After all, in the era when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was still writing Sherlock Holmes stories, who possibly could argue with a detective's visiting card with 221B in the address?

After spending months reading "Moby-Dick," I'm enjoying spending a night or two polishing off all of one of Miss Fisher's adventures.

Whether you get them from the TV or the library, I commend them heartily to your attention. They're great summer fun.

Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.

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  • My brother Wally and his wife are big fans of the WTTW series, urging me to tune in. I've come across it several times channel surfing, but it's never clear what's happening when you enter in medias res. Thanks for your endorsement. I think I'll start with the books too. Besides the Holmes' homage just adds to its appeal.

  • Thank you, my friend. I think you'd like them as I do if you start with the books as introduction(s). The first three titles are "Cocaine Blues," "Flying Too High," and "Murder on the Ballarat Train." The TV series isn't in the same order as the books -- shades of Jeremy Brett's TV version of Holmes -- so that I found "episode two" and it was the Ballarat train case. I got distracted watching that because I kept thinking of "The Boscombe Valley Mystery." Reading "Cocaine Blues" will set up the characters and explain life at what I'm coming to think of as 221B South. It's not terribly "cozy" as the mystery genre puts it, but I like that at least something gets solved within 200 pages and with high standards for beauty and language. Appeal, as you mentioned at the end of your comment, is a very good word for either the books or the TV series.

  • I am in need of some great summer fun reads!

  • In reply to folkloric:

    I'm not, since I met Miss Fisher. I did find one longer than 200 pages since I wrote this post -- the shock! -- and some of them are not as mild-mannered as others, but I think you'd enjoy them just for a quick read, a fun female detective, and, as if just for you, a touch of Australian folklore!

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