Murder on a Midsummer Night
Greenwood’s latest entry in the Phryne Fisher series, her 16th, has the unflappable Melbourne detective facing a multitude of problems: her 29th birthday (a serious occasion); a midsummer heat wave (complete with dangerously hot winds); a dead antiques dealer (young, and not suicidal, so he must have been murdered); and a genealogy quest (for a fractious, and fractured, family). It’s enough to leave other investigators wishing for a stiff drink and some ice.
Fortunately, Phryne has the resources to meet all challenges — for one of them, a large block of ice is indeed the answer — without breaking a sweat. Her foray into the antique-dealer’s life includes meeting his mother, who had once been a model for the Pre-Raphaelites, his friends, who are “modern” types into smoking pot and holding séances, and the stock of his store, which holds many secrets, and perhaps the answer to his untimely demise. The family asking for help with resolving a will that mentions an unknown child has just as many quirks and secrets. Phryne enlists the help of her companion, Dot, and her sister, Eliza, as well as her usual cadre of lovers, adopted daughters, cab drivers, and off-duty policemen to help track down every lead; the expanded roles of Dot and Eliza are especially well-crafted. The only false note is that of the Pre-Raphaelite model, as she would have had to be a very young model, and a very old mother, for the dates of the artists (1850s) and the story (1929) to mesh.
Given a willing suspension of disbelief, however, the story works just fine. Readers should sit back and enjoy the rollicking action that Phryne Fisher’s investigations always provide. A glass of iced orange crush is optional.