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Queen of the Flowers
Phryne Fisher series #14

by Kerry Greenwood

      I like this series a lot anyway, but how can you resist a book whose opening line is "The elephant was the last straw," especially when you know it's set far from their natural home. The scenes immediately after are even more irresistible.

The Honorable Phryne Fisher, a rich and beautiful young private investigator, is simultaneously a female version of stylish heroes like "The Saint" and very much her own woman. A sensualist to the core, reveling in beautiful young men and dalliance, good food and drink and clothes, colors, scents, smells, touches and every other stimulus there is, she lives as much in the present as any person can, but will spend much of this story dealing with unexpected pieces of the past, including her own.

Phryne has been selected Queen of the Flowers for St Kilda's first flower parade. This means luncheons with her young flower maidens, meetings with administrators, dress fittings, and a thousand and one other arrangements. However, the Flower Parade is also drawing other sorts of things, like a carnival with elephants, and, well, inevitably... crime. When one of the flower maidens goes missing, Phryne is hired to find her. Since Phryne is a realist, her search soon stretches beyond the girl's family and friends into local brothels and organized crime. One of the nice things about Kerry Greenwood's writing is that cliché phrases like "white slavery" are traded for showing you the reality behind them. While Phryne is still uncovering things she'd rather not know about the missing Rosie and those around her, her own adopted daughter goes missing. What had been a commitment becomes a crusade.

Typically for this series, there isn't a wasted word in this thin volume, resulting in a fast read that's still simply packed with color, action, and life. The vivid historical setting and characters draw you deeply into their world as you follow a storyline nicely embellished with subplots and secondary puzzles. Surprises keep appearing to the very end. Recommended reading, especially for those who think historical mystery means boring pseudo-history lesson rather than exciting story and fun read.

The Book

Poisoned Pen Press
July 2008
Hardcover (reviewed from ARC)
Historical Mystery / 1920s Australia
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NOTE: Ms. Greenwood has received the Ned Kelly Lifetime Achievement Award from the Crime Writers’ Association of Australia

The Reviewer

Kim Malo
Reviewed 2008
© 2008