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Murder on the Ballarat Train
Phryne Fisher Mystery, No 3

by Kerry Greenwood

      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.

The Book

Poisoned Pen Press
October 2006
Historical Mystery [Australia 1920s]
More at
NOTE: Some mildly graphic sexual interaction

The Reviewer

Kim Malo
Reviewed 2006
© 2006