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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