Without its complementary television series, I never would have found out about Miss Fisher’s Mysteries. Now that I do know her, though, I can’t imagine life without being able to follow her delightful adventures. I’m thoroughly hooked on the intoxicating blend of mystery, humor, adventure and fun which this series provides. Add to that a cast of appealing characters, and a mystery which was actually mysterious, and you have the recipe for a wonderful series. I imagine Miss Fisher is the woman Nancy Drew might have grown up to be if Drew hadn’t been stuck in suburbia. (And dating a total Ken doll.) Oh, and speaking of dating… did I mention that in addition to fun adventures to be had and mysteries to be solved, Ms. Greenwood also includes a fair number of delightful sex scenes? Miss Fisher has absolutely no problem acknowledging her more romantic desires, and I for one am always delighted to find a female protagonist with heaps of sexual independence. (She’s smart about it, too, which is another thing I love.)
Sadly, there are a few minor issues. First is the absolute break-neck pace at which this story proceeds. This book opens with Miss Fisher attending a dull-as-dishwater dinner party. The party ends ends with her solving a minor crime, apprehending the culprit, then being hired on to look into yet another mysterious matter. This in of itself wouldn’t be a problem…except that all of this takes roughly 5 pages to transpire. Yup. Reading this book was a lot like trying to catch up with a racehorse that’s bolted. You enjoy the exercise, but it’s also exhausting.
There’s also a fair bit of telling, and not showing, that cardinal sin of all writing classes. On many occasions the writing simply says: “___ didn’t like doing ___, so they didn’t.” Not a dealbreaker, but it jangled me a bit nonetheless. The story flips between its characters with equal speed, though again this is made up for by each of the characters being interesting. I feel if they had been boring or irritating, this might have been a serious problem. And if you dislike in-depth descriptions of fashion, be warned: This book *loves* telling you what people are wearing. At length. In fact, I believe this is one of the first times I’ve read a something which specifically went out of its way to describe an outfit in just as much detail as most authors describe a character’s physique. Personally, I found this amusing…but others might not.
My final and strongest warning is that this book is VASTLY different from the television show. I know, no huge shock there, right? Well…in my case, there is a bit of a shock because as it turns out, I think the TV show is actually *better.* (These are words I never thought to see leave my fingertips, btw.) The book is fun, but the show has a lot of emotional depth which the novel lacks. Even Phryne herself seems childish and bratty compared to her television counterpart. I was also sad to see DI Robinson’s character in a far more minor role, not to mention in the novel he is barely worth mentioning at all. His pen-and-paper persona lacks initiative and intelligence, whereas his TV version is nearly on par with Miss Fisher’s intellect. While these are all things which could easily change over the course of the series–indeed, Phryne sheds some of her initial brattiness by the end of the book–it saddened me to see the source material not keeping up with what I had seen on my screen.
But, despite all of these issues, I still highly recommend this series. It was a blast to read, and I ended the novel with a huge smile on my face. That’s as good as it gets, in my opinion. I can’t wait to read more!