Friday, March 08, 2013

AWWC 2013: Unnatural Habits by Kerry Greenwood

In Unnatural Habits, her latest Phryne Fisher mystery, (published by Allen & Unwin in 2012) author Kerry Greenwood has elegant, beautiful, unconventional (and extremely wealthy) private detective, the Honourable Phryne Fisher, again drawn into the underworld of 1920s Melbourne. Pretty, young, blonde girls are disappearing and so are unmarried mothers from the Catholic Magdalen laundries. Margaret 'Polly' Kettle, an ambitious young woman journalist, sniffs a story - then vanishes herself.

Phryne, her adopted daughters, Jane and Ruth, 'apprentice' detective, fourteen year old Tinker and various others familiar to readers of previous Phryne mysteries like her companion, Dot, her lover, Lin Chung, Dr Mac, Cec and Bert and the Butlers (who somehow maintain a calm, organised home for her at the same time) set out to use Phryne's often unconventional contacts to try to find out what is happening. At the same time, Detective Inspector John 'Jack' Robinson and Detective Constable Hugh Collins are using more conventional policing methods. Between them they bring all three mysteries to satisfying and unexpected conclusions.

While some might find Phryne somewhat over the top, for me, she is, if sometimes outrageous, enjoyable for what she is - an intelligent eccentric who has position, wealth and contacts as well as a well developed if unconventional morality allowing her unusual freedom of action. Her companion, Dot describes her as a force of nature. I think that probably sums her up neatly.

Unnatural Habits is well researched and, unusually in fiction, includes a bibliography. It sheds light on some less well known aspects of Australian history with respectable society not always coming out well. You won't find harrowing descriptions of blood soaked victims but you will be left in no doubt of the appalling conditions experienced by many.

As to who would enjoy Unnatural Habits, although some of the subject matter is dark, it should appeal  to those who like their crime with a light touch.

Phryne has her own website at


Satima Flavell said...

Oh, how I wish there were more hours in a day! Having watched the TV series, I would love to read the novels, but I already have a TBR pile of nearly 100 books. :-( I do hope they make more Miss Fisher TV shows!

Helen V. said...

I have probably 50 books in my TBR pile but fortunately I'm a very fast reader.
With regard to the TV series I believe the ABC is already filming another series to go to air later this year so you won't have to wait too long.