Blood and Circuses

Written by Kerry Greenwood
Review by Jane Kessler

This is the 6th in a series of sixteen mysteries Kerry Greenwood has written featuring the Honourable Phryne Fisher, a young, beautiful, rich, smart and free-spirited private investigator living in Melbourne, Australia, in the 1920s.

Phryne is feeling rather bored with her well-ordered life of luxury when she is visited by an old friend, Alan Lee, who operates a carousel in the carnival that travels with Farrell’s Circus and Wild Beast Show. All is not well at Farrell’s. Animals have died mysteriously, recently replaced tightropes have broken, fires have broken out during performances, and performers have been attacked by thugs. Alan wants Phryne to go undercover and investigate. Stung by Alan’s criticism that she’s gone soft, she says yes. Meanwhile, Phryne’s old friend, Detective Robinson, is busy investigating the brutal boarding house murder of Mr. Christopher, a hermaphrodite who was part of Farrell’s circus.

The charm of this highly entertaining series lies not so much in the mysteries, which are not terribly complex, but in the characterization of Phryne and whatever milieu she finds herself in. In this story, Greenwood wonderfully captures life in the circus, with its unique social order and customs. A fun read.