Thursday, July 31, 2014

Book Review: A Question of Death - An Illustrated Phryne Fisher Treasury by Kerry Greenwood

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: 13 entertaining mystery stories
Cons: Assumes familiarity with the series characters
The Bottom Line:
It is worth the trip
For mysteries down under
Flapper detective

Travel Down Under and Back in Time with Phryne

Several months ago, I had a friend visiting me from Australia.  Before she left, she gave me a present of A Question of Death, explaining that is starred a character who was very popular down under.  Bad friend that I am, I didn’t read it until now, but I’m glad I gave it a chance since I enjoyed getting to meet Phryne.

This book is a collection of 13 short stories starring Phryne Fisher.  She’s an independent woman in 1928 Australia who makes her living as a detective.  In this collection, she solves several murders, including the murder of two brothers at one of her parties and the murder of a general at a Christmas in June party.  However, she also solves a few other cases, like a young man who confesses to a murder even when no body is found, a stolen lucky hat, and a missing family heirloom.

As a bonus, this book also contains a few recipes, about half for drinks and half for food, and a few other items fans of the character will love.

This was a bit of an odd choice for jumping into the series.  While there were explanations about who some of the characters were, I never felt like I truly knew who everyone was, especially since some of them were only in one or two stories.  On the other hand, as long as I could track everyone for the current story, I had no problem following the action.  I’m quite curious about Phryne’s background since she appears to be wealthy on her own, but I’m sure that is explained in the earlier novels.

The stories themselves are quite entertaining.  A few of them hinge on Phryne just happening to stumble on the right clue, but for the most part she is presented as a very smart woman who is able to piece things together in a logical way.  None of the solutions seemed forced, and several of them were actually quite clever, especially given the short space of each story.

The author admits in the introduction that one of the stories was created so she could play around with a setting and characters she intended to use in a book.  I suspect that a few of these others were also such exercises, although I have no proof.  That’s not to say that it diminishes their enjoyment as all.  Each story stands quite well on its own.

So yes, I’m glad I spent time with Phryne Fisher.  I’m not sure this was the best place to learn about the character, but even so A Question of Death entertained.


  1. I've enjoyed the Phryne Fisher books I've read. I do like that she is shown as very intelligent and quick thinking so when she does just stumble on a clue you buy it. Definitely give the first book a try! It explains a lot about her. I'll have to look for this short story collection.

    1. I definitely wouldn't rule out reading more books in the series. Of course, given the state of my TBR pile, I also wouldn't count on it any time soon.