Blood and Circuses, the 6th Phryne Fisher mystery, is so far, the least satisfying, and I think I know why. Kerry Green...moreI can tell what happened here.
Blood and Circuses, the 6th Phryne Fisher mystery, is so far, the least satisfying, and I think I know why. Kerry Greenwood has written the character for 6 books and five years at this point. I can almost hear her inner monologue: Am I in a rut? Are all of the books going to follow a pattern? Do I want to switch things up a bit? She did that.
This is essentially supposed to be a fish out of water story, with Phryne playing the fish. Specifically a play on a subtrope of FOW -- City Mouse. Phryne is stripped of her wealth, privilege, house, car and family. How will she survive? Except Ms. Greenwood seems to forget what she has told us in each of the other five books in the series: Phryne can take care of herself, that is her superpower. She grew up poor. She didn't gain wealth until she was a teen and even then, didn't take it seriously. She was always Rose in first class finding a poor bloke as a lover and dancing with the rabble in steerage. So now we're to believe that going into the countryside and living for a few weeks with a traveling tent circus will bring her nearly to the breaking point? That she will be so weakened she will take a lover not out of libidinous desire, but for protection? Um, no.
For much of the book there are two story-lines: Phrynie's circus investigation and Lt. Robinson's Melbourne murder. Obviously they were linked and it took until the last act of the book to bring them together. Some of the plot details were sketchy and there were also a few jarring perspective shifts in this one. The period and circus vs freaks research was flawless. I think Ms. Greenwood was so busy showing off her talents at meticulous detail, story and structure suffered.
Basically, Phryne lost her agency, just enough, and in such an unbelievably trivial (for her) way, it lost me. I get why Ms. Greenwood did it, but the reason Phryne broke was just too little. Phryne is a superhero. She's Bond. She's Nero Wolfe. She's flawed, but she doesn't break easily. I just didn't buy it and to be honest, I don't think Ms. Greenwood did either.(less)
In early 1928 England, bored, wealthy 28 year-old aristocrat Phryne Fisher (pronounced 'fry-nee') solves a minor mystery at a dinner when she finds a...moreIn early 1928 England, bored, wealthy 28 year-old aristocrat Phryne Fisher (pronounced 'fry-nee') solves a minor mystery at a dinner when she finds a stolen necklace. One of her fellow guests is impressed by her skill at deduction and asks her to solve a case for him in Australia. Phryne returns to her native land, solves the case and becomes a private detective. Taking Melbourne and the rest of Victoria by storm with her class, skills, flair and talent for continually doing scandalous things, she quickly builds up a group of friends and allies- everyone from a pair of Communist cab drivers to one of the few female doctors in the country- while solving her case.
I came to the book series because of the adapted Australian TV series, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. Several changes have been made from the books. Phryne is no ordinary aristocrat,she can fly a plane, drives her own car (a Hispano-Suiza), smokes, drinks, dances, has "friends in low places" and sometimes wears trousers. However, while displaying bohemian panache, she manages also to maintain style and class. Phryne is a hero, a female Bond or Saint, but with fewer product endorsements and a better class of lovers. She's an empowered female hero with agency and free as a male hero. She takes at least two lovers in each book, never looking back once he pulls his trousers on and walks out of her bedroom door. In book 5, she flies to a tiny village in the Australian Alps. She brings with her a change of clothes, her gun and her diaphragm (because, you just never know).
It's my belief that instead of being Kerry Greenwood's Mary Sue, Phryne deserves her place in the Wold Newton Family. Phryne is preternaturally intelligent, street-wise and strong. She's an expert with guns, knives (throwing and Apache-style fighting) and at judo. She can crack a safe with ease and disguise herself so even her closest allies won't recognize her. She's also a trained stunt and long-distance pilot with her own plane and trained racecar driver with her own (barely street legal) car. She deserves to be listed as an equal with others in the Wold Newton Family: Sherlock Holmes; Tarzan; Doc Savage; Lord Peter Wimsey, Bulldog Drummond; Fu Manchu The Shadow; Sam Spade; Nero Wolfe and Lew Archer.
Ms. Greenwood's writing gets better with each book. Her strengths are her amazing eye for detail and accurate period detail.(less)
Not as good as the first book, but fun. What is the series? Think HART TO HART meets LEVERAGE meets Stephanie Pl...moreI would probably give this 3.5 stars.
Not as good as the first book, but fun. What is the series? Think HART TO HART meets LEVERAGE meets Stephanie Plum meets REMINGTON STEELE meets TO CATCH A THIEF meets CASTLE and you pretty much have the basic tone and feel of the series.
I think it would make an excellent USA TV series. (less)
This book is a lot of fun. A Facebook friend just reminded me about it and I'm really glad she did. This has a special place in my heart. On our secon...moreThis book is a lot of fun. A Facebook friend just reminded me about it and I'm really glad she did. This has a special place in my heart. On our second date, the woman who would become my wife (also, eventually, my ex) gave me her copy of BotDS to read. After I read it, I knew our sensibilities and interests were in synch. It was a lot harder in the pre-high speed internet days, to ferret out fellow Geeks.
BotDS is a really fun, charming and witty "Whodunit" by Sharyn McCrumb. It combines a serious murder mystery with the scariest world of all -- fandom.
James Owen Mega is just an ordinary guy, a professor of electrical engineering at Virginia Tech. What very few people realize is that he is also Jay Omega, one-time SF author -- and that's exactly how Jay wants it. His novel was a serious, hard SF story, but by the time the second-rate publishing house got through with it, it was saddled with a Frank Frazetta-esque cover and the title Bimbos of the Death Sun. Though he attempts to bury his shame, his girlfriend books him as a guest at Rubicon, a local SF convention. There, they meet the troublesome Appin Dungannon, author of a Conan-like series of novels and owner of an incredibly short fuse and colossal ego. Some time between the costume contest and the celebrity D&D game, however, Dungannon is murdered, and Jay and his girlfriend, Marion, do a little investigating of their own.(less)
For what it's worth, JOYLAND really doesn't fit into the Hard Case Crimes brand of throwback pulp noir fiction. What it does do is roll the window dow...moreFor what it's worth, JOYLAND really doesn't fit into the Hard Case Crimes brand of throwback pulp noir fiction. What it does do is roll the window down, allowing the genre to air itself out a bit. Joyland is not really a ghost story. Well it is, but that's just the MacGuffin. It's actually a nicely told coming of age story about first love, naïveté and the fruitlessness of romanticizing nostalgia. (less)
Richard Matheson, who just turned 87, is now a veteran author with dozens of screenplays, novels and short stories to his credit; mostly in SF, fantas...moreRichard Matheson, who just turned 87, is now a veteran author with dozens of screenplays, novels and short stories to his credit; mostly in SF, fantasy and horror genres. Like most novice writers he dabbled in many genres. Three of his early mystery/suspense novels, originally published as individual disposable paperbacks in the 1950s are included in this aptly named anthology. The stories are: Someone Is Bleeding, Fury On Sunday(both 1953) and Ride the Nightmare(1959). Of these, Someone is Bleeding is the best and most disturbing. There is no nuance in these early works or really complex characters, but in SiB there is the beginning of the archetypical Mathesonian tropes of terror, paranoia and power. In this case, power is perverted and power is lost.(less)
Cowboys Otto “Big Red” Amlingmeyer and his brother Gustav “Old Red” are back and they're tired. Tired of saddle sores and long trail rides. Old Red in...moreCowboys Otto “Big Red” Amlingmeyer and his brother Gustav “Old Red” are back and they're tired. Tired of saddle sores and long trail rides. Old Red insists they sign on to protect the luxurious new Pacific Express, despite a generations-old Amlingmeyer family distrust of the farm-stealin', cattle-killin', money-grubbin' railroads. Old Red knows that little brother, Big Red wants to take a stab at professional ‘detectifying’ just like his hero, Sherlock Holmes so they quickly find themselves hired on as guards for the railroad. Soon, the boys find themselves trapped on a train, summiting the Sierras en route to San Francisco with a gang of outlaws, a baggage car filled with secrets, and a vicious killer hidden somewhere amongst the passengers.
Cowboys Otto “Big Red” Amlingmeyer and his brother Gustav “Old Red” in 1890s Montana have just been hired at the Bar VR Ranch. It's not a very pleasan...moreCowboys Otto “Big Red” Amlingmeyer and his brother Gustav “Old Red” in 1890s Montana have just been hired at the Bar VR Ranch. It's not a very pleasant place, but a job's a job. One day, though, the boys come across the aftermath of a cattle stampede, complete with the aftermath of a body. How did this fellow meet his demise? A fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories in The Strand, Old Red sees the perfect opportunity to employ his Holmes-inspired “deducifyin’” skills and sets out to solve the case. With Big Red as his Watson, "Holmes" is on the range.(less)
I'm not sure why it took me so long to read this series. I guess I thought it was more a hardcore romance than it was. My mistake and loss for gender-...moreI'm not sure why it took me so long to read this series. I guess I thought it was more a hardcore romance than it was. My mistake and loss for gender-stereotyping. It's no Dresden Files, but then again, neither was the first book in the Dresden Files. I've already borrowed the next book from my library.
(view spoiler)[BTW: How clever was it for Ms Harrison to create a slightly off-kilter alt-history for her world? In the Hollows-Verse, DNA was discovered earlier and the world became dominated by genetics. Around the early 60s a genetic plague called the Angel Virus wiped out a good chuck of humanity and that's when witches, fairies, were-creatures, vampires, ghouls and goblins "came out". This allows for her to have a bit bigger sandbox to play in, and for the reader to easily overlook outdated tech or dated references. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This was, I believe, Mr. Talty's first published work of fiction. Talty’s South Buffalo is insular, paranoid, parochial, dying and dangerous. I grew u...moreThis was, I believe, Mr. Talty's first published work of fiction. Talty’s South Buffalo is insular, paranoid, parochial, dying and dangerous. I grew up in a tiny, insular, paranoid, parochial (though not dangerous) farm community -- I can relate.
I really came to like the Harvard educated Buffalo police detective, Absalom “Abbie” Kearney. I'd read another of her adventures, if Mr. Talty feels he has one in him.
Ratings: Again... *sigh* I'm vexed by the lack of half stars. If I could, I'd give it 3 and a half. Generally, if I really enjoyed an aspect of the book, I'll just grade up. In this case, I won't. As it is, as much as I enjoyed the character and his world building -- this needed to go through one more edit and revision. Just to shine it up, fix some sentence structure issues, tense changes and at least one glaring continuity error. I'm not nit-picking; it's a good first work of fiction, but at times it was a bit too uneven and "cinematic". I have no doubt that he'll grow as a fiction/thriller writer and I, for one, will gladly go along for the ride.(less)
With the discovery of the last Plantagenet under a car park, (big news in early Feb. 2013 - probably not so much whenever you are reading this) I deci...moreWith the discovery of the last Plantagenet under a car park, (big news in early Feb. 2013 - probably not so much whenever you are reading this) I decided it was finally time to read this. (less)