In today's world of super-sized bestsellers, Kerry Greenwood's slim volumes may seem like barely an appetizer. However,
she packs so much story into each of them that you feel eminently satisfied at the end, even as you can't believe the
story's over already. It's a trick some of the bloated bestsellers could profit from learning.
Her books are also simply a lot of fun. Someone once described her heroine, The Honorable Phryne Fisher, as a female
version of The Saint from the old Leslie Charteris books, and that's not a bad comparison. Phryne has The Saint's
highly developed sense of justice paired with unconventional morals and a perfect willingness to repay the bad guys
in kind. She also drives a huge, powerful car, has a vast network of acquaintances of varying respectability, and
happily indulges herself in luxury and casual affairs and taking in all life has to offer, while displaying good looks
and charisma to burn.
In Ballarat Train, Phryne's decision to take the train rather than drive nearly turns out to be fatal, as
she wakes up to the smell of chloroform. She saves the other passengers, but then things turn really strange. One
passenger apparently disappeared from the moving train, while another turns out to be a young girl on her own with
no memory of who she is, or why she is there. Phryne's investigation of both mysteries leads to the uncovering of a
pair of ingenious but horrifying criminal schemes. Fortunately it also brings her rewards such as the beautiful young
man who can't believe his luck...
Poisoned Pen is re-issuing the older books in this series while also bringing out newer ones, so even though Murder
on the Ballarat Train is their eighth and latest, it's actually the third book in the series. Each of them works
well as a stand alone, however, with proper introductions to the widening cast of characters around Phryne the only
real reason to care about reading them in order. These are vividly written adventures (with equally vivid, gorgeous
covers) full of fascinating characters. Addictive and highly recommended.