A nice start to a spin-off series!
I’ve been a fan of Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher series for a couple of decades, but I watch almost no TV. So I barely knew that there was a TV series for the original books, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, and was completely unaware that there was also a spin-off series, Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries, featuring Phryne’s niece Peregrine. But then I was offered an advance copy of the novelization of the first episode of the new series, Just Murdered, by Katherine Kovacic, to review for my blog, and the book turned out to be a lot of fun.
Sadly, we find out in the Prologue that Phryne has gone missing in Papua New Guinea, and she’s been missing for long enough that her estate, per her wishes, needs to be distributed. But thus enters Peregrine, who has had a rather chaotic past. Said past has provided her with some odd skills (lock-picking, tight-rope walking, and excellent shooting come to mind), but also has meant she isn’t the best at holding down a job. So when, just after she’s been fired – not without cause – from her latest gig at a hairdressers, a letter arrives on thick, cream-colored stationery, saying something about a meeting and an inheritance, Peregrine takes off for Melbourne right away.
As a bit more of the background gets filled in, we discover that, although it’s now the 1960s in Melbourne, some things never change. There are still good policemen and bad policemen, and the bad ones still seem to have a lot of influence and power. And although women have advanced somewhat in status, there’s still a good bit of misogyny around – mitigated somewhat by the wonderfully named (and mutually-supporting) Adventuresses’ Club. So when one of the Adventuresses, Florence Astor, is first accused of the murder of a model at her own fashion show, and then found dead herself, Peregrine steps in, Phryne-fashion, to clear Florence’s name and find the real culprit. And in the process she grows up a bit and earns her own right to a place in the Club.
Just Murdered is a quick and enjoyable read. I liked watching Peregrine work her way through the clues surrounding the two deaths, and liked even more watching Peregrine run circles around, and help, and maybe even develop a bit of fondness for Detective James Steed, one of the good cops. My only slightly negative comment is that Just Murdered does feel like a novelization of a screen play – it’s a little less fleshed-out in some places than I might have expected from a Phryne Fisher spin-off. But all-in-all, that’s a minor complaint, and I’m hoping that there will be more novelizations to come in the future. Or else I may have to watch TV! (I checked online, and there are a couple of seasons of episodes, at least…)
Finally, my thanks to Poisoned Pen Press and to NetGalley for the advance review copy. And of course, I’ll continue to hope that Phryne turns up sometime, with a wonderful story to tell…