You know, I find that I don’t really like Greenwood’s heroine, Phryne Fisher. I tried to read one of her mysteries before and gave it up quite fast; Phryne is kind of cold and superior, and, to paraphrase her own words, not prone to guilt or remorse, or to any extreme kind of emotion, in fact. I did warm a bit towards her in the end of this book, for being so capable, and the plot is quite satisfyingly twisty, so I might be persuaded to read another one. (Plot of this one in a nutshell: Phryne is hired to locate a missing girl who is to be part of the Flower Parade at St Kilda; also one of her adopted daughters is having who-is-my-real-father issues).
There is something quite insufferable about Phryne, though. I started to wonder whether I was succumbing to culturally indoctrinated ideas of what women should be like – you know, all warm and nurturing, or at least prone to a good bit of irrational PMT. I wondered, am I judging her more harshly than the boys? (Boy private eyes, I mean). For example, I am quite fond of Sir Peter Wimsey, another toffee-nosed well-to-do detective-because-he-can-afford-to-be literary character. But Sir Peter is tortured, sometimes, and prone to self-doubt. I also enjoyed Sherlock Holmes stories when I was younger, who is not renowned for his emotional depth - but we could excuse him a bit because he was a genius and because there was good old Dr Watson there with him, who had a more normal range of human responses and got hurt when Holmes left him out of things and so on. It’s all that personal growth business – Phryne doesn’t seem to feel she needs any. Also it annoys me that she’s called “Phryne” because it’s so difficult to spell.
In any case, I have the impression Greenwood wouldn’t be the slightest bit perturbed at Phryne not being universally liked – and I’m quite certain that Phryne herself wouldn’t give a toss.
A good lazy Sunday read when you’re in a superior mood – or, to feel like Phryne, read it in the bath with a good French red.