Murder On The Ballarat Train


This is the third book of the adventures of the Honourable Phryne Fisher, lady detective, set in 1920s Australia. Phryne is on the train, traveling to Ballarat to visit family with her faithful maid, Dot. She wakens to the cloying smell of chloroform and discovers that the passengers have being poisoned as they sleep. Phryne rescues her fellow passengers by shooting out the window with her pistol, pulling the alarm, and getting everyone off the train. One of the passengers, a cantankerous old woman, is missing and later found dead. Phryne brings the woman’s injured daughter to her home in Melbourne and attempts to solve the mystery of the elderly woman’s murder. To further complicate matters, a young girl is found on the train who is not on the passenger list. She doesn’t know who she is or how she got there. Phryne takes her in also, and soon has her hands and her house full.

Phryne is a delightful character: smart, independent, sophisticated, and free-spirited. Although she is wealthy, she remembers what it is like to be poor. I admired her outrage at the mistreatment of young girls in this story, and it is great fun to watch her exact justice (her methods are just a little unorthodox). The other characters are well drawn, too, including her maid, Dot, and her friend, the doctor. I plan to read everything in this very entertaining series.

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12 of the best stories selected from the 2012 Historical Novel Society Short Story Award







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