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Phryne Fisher #19

Unnatural Habits

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1929: Girls are going missing in Melbourne. Little, pretty golden-haired girls. And not just pretty. Three of them are pregnant, poor girls from the harsh confines of the Magdalene Laundry. People are getting nervous. Polly Kettle, a pushy, self-important Girl Reporter with ambition and no sense of self preservation, decides to investigate - and promptly goes missing herself.It's time for Phryne and Dot to put a stop to this and find Polly Kettle before something quite irreparable happens to all of them. It's all piracy and dark cellars, convents and plots, murder and mystery .... and Phryne finally finds out if it's true that blondes have more fun.

348 pages, Paperback

First published September 26, 2012

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About the author

Kerry Greenwood

86 books2,280 followers
Kerry Greenwood was born in the Melbourne suburb of Footscray and after wandering far and wide, she returned to live there. She has a degree in English and Law from Melbourne University and was admitted to the legal profession on the 1st April 1982, a day which she finds both soothing and significant.

Kerry has written twenty novels, a number of plays, including The Troubadours with Stephen D'Arcy, is an award-winning children's writer and has edited and contributed to several anthologies. In 1996 she published a book of essays on female murderers called Things She Loves: Why women Kill.

The Phryne Fisher series (pronounced Fry-knee, to rhyme with briny) began in 1989 with Cocaine Blues which was a great success. Kerry has written thirteen books in this series with no sign yet of Miss Fisher hanging up her pearl-handled pistol. Kerry says that as long as people want to read them, she can keep writing them.

Kerry Greenwood has worked as a folk singer, factory hand, director, producer, translator, costume-maker, cook and is currently a solicitor. When she is not writing, she works as a locum solicitor for the Victorian Legal Aid. She is also the unpaid curator of seven thousand books, three cats (Attila, Belladonna and Ashe) and a computer called Apple (which squeaks). She embroiders very well but cannot knit. She has flown planes and leapt out of them (with a parachute) in an attempt to cure her fear of heights (she is now terrified of jumping out of planes but can climb ladders without fear). She can detect second-hand bookshops from blocks away and is often found within them.

For fun Kerry reads science fiction/fantasy and detective stories. She is not married, has no children and lives with a registered wizard. When she is not doing any of the above she stares blankly out of the window.


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Displaying 1 - 30 of 462 reviews
Profile Image for Brenda.
4,031 reviews2,631 followers
December 22, 2015
When Miss Phryne Fisher observed a young woman being harassed by boys on the street, she intervened. But Polly Kettle wasn’t particularly grateful for her rescue – a reporter from a local paper in Melbourne she was filled with a determination to get ahead; to get her story at any cost. And her cost came when she vanished – it seemed she’d been abducted; Phryne was sure she would find her, with the help of her good friend, Jack Robinson the local policeman.

When three young women who were very pregnant disappeared from a nearby residence, as well as small blonde girls also going missing, the ire of Jack Robinson was up. Phryne, along with her helpers Dot, Jane, Tinker and Ruth decided to investigate. And so began the search through places of ill-repute, the Magdalen Laundry of the local convent, the nearby Catholic church and a place at Bacchus Marsh – to name a few. Bert and Cec were of assistance but the dangers were immense. The murder and mayhem of the late 1920s in Melbourne continued unabated. Would Phryne succeed in her goal to find Polly Kettle plus the missing women and girls? Or was it already too late?

Once again Aussie author Kerry Greenwood writes a stunning Phryne Fisher tale with Unnatural Habits. Filled with mystery and intrigue, light and entertaining titbits, laugh out loud moments and lots of suspense, Unnatural Habits is thoroughly enjoyable. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Andrea.
882 reviews132 followers
July 7, 2017
*I received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

This is by far my favorite Phryne story so far!

There are so many issues discussed in this book (from homosexuality and a club that offers a safe haven for them under the guise of "gentlemen's club" to brothels, child abuse, communist communes, white slavery, and Eugenics (the idea that a population can be improved by controlled, scientific breeding to weed out "flaws"), all set to the seemingly glittering world of the 1920s. As always, Greenwood's extensive research results in an incredibly rich and fascinating scenery.

Phryne, as always, has multiple problems to solve that are all connected: pregnant girls, abused and abandoned by their families, have disappeared from a convent laundry where Phryne uncovers revolting practices; beautiful, blonde children have gone missing and appear to have been sold; desperate girls disappear from an employment agency that offers jobs overseas and are never seen again; and then the reporter that has uncovered the connection behind this disappears without a trace...

This is much darker than some of the other books in the series I have read. Phryne's outrage at the goings-on at the convent the three girls have disappeared from is so touching, and her frustration at her inability to save each and every child that suffers at the hands of the nuns there is incredibly moving. I have never been so in awe of her as in this book. The way she fearlessly takes on abusive priests and nuns, fathers and mothers who sell their children, and the slavers who sell children is so incredibly inspiring. There were times she was quite terrifying in her "angel of vengeance" state, but it was incredibly satisfying to see her take on such scum with the help of her loving and supportive family (which now includes three minions/ adopted children; her lover Lin; the Butlers; and her faithful sidekick and maid Dot).
Profile Image for Marianne.
3,328 reviews128 followers
April 19, 2015
Unnatural Habits is the nineteenth book in the popular Phryne Fisher series by Australian author, Kerry Greenwood. A chance encounter with a young female reporter for The Daily Truth in a laneway leads Phryne Fisher to investigate the disappearance of three pregnant girls and said reporter. Margaret Kettle, better known as Polly, is determined to make her name as a serious journalist and steals a colleague’s story on White Slavery. But her enquiries into the fate of three very pregnant teenagers last seen at a pious widow’s nursing home mark the last sighting of the enthusiastic if somewhat careless reporter.

Her questions in a variety of places have ruffled some feathers, but whose? Someone associated with the Convent of the Good Shepherd and their workhouse-like Magdalen Laundry business? The owners of local brothels or exclusive Gentlemen’s Clubs? Or does her disgruntled colleague have a hand in her disappearance? What does the employment agency, Jobs For All, have to do with it? And just who is going around performing involuntary vasectomies on deserving males?

In this instalment, Phryne makes full use of her daughters (on vacation from school), of Dot, of her new employee, Tink and of her taxi drivers, Bert and Cec. Her minions (as she repeatedly refers to them in this instalment) are put to work on a secret code and other researches as well as taking active parts in the interrogation of witnesses. Phryne adopts an assortment of disguises: a blonde actress, a pregnant girl and a nun, as required by the different strands of the investigation. As well as white slavery, eugenics, virginity tests, kidnapping, slave labour and a female-run fruit-growing collective all feature. With this excellent novel, Greenwood once again proves herself a mistress of historical crime fiction.
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,806 followers
May 25, 2018
Well...another good novel and the title speaks for itself, a bit.

Phryne get's into a case with some very sad, unpleasant and unsavory situations. The books do not flinch at blunt and graphic depictions and that doesn't bother me. I've mentioned Phryne's proclivity to enjoy (graphic) sex with (sometimes seemingly any available) numerous sex partners. That's not what I refer to here. The plot here is one that's a bit more serious (not that murder isn't serious enough) than some of the other books

The humor is still here and it's well handled in the face of a somewhat more serious plot. Again I can recommend it. Enjoy.
Profile Image for Bea .
1,974 reviews137 followers
May 6, 2020
I really should be used to the differences between the books and TV episodes by now. The episode inspired by this book bears almost no resemblance to the book. Basically, all they have in books common is missing pregnant teen girls.

So, the book. Phryne encounters a female reporter and finds herself getting involved in the case of some missing poor, young girls. Then the reporter goes missing. And soon, Phryne and her crew, or minions as she likes to call them, are on the hunt and up to their necks in white slavery, slave labor, virginity tests, child marriage, sexual abuse, kidnapping, and a socialist-inspired fruit farming collective run and worked by females only. There's a lot going on and at times my attention wandered but Phryne and minions were full of life and opinions and passion. Phryne is more self-centered and sybaritic than in the TV show and at times, I thought she needed to woman up and be less indulgent but she never backs away from doing what she thinks is right and enacting her own version of justice. When you are in trouble, Phryne Fisher is just the woman to help you. Provided she thinks you're worth helping.

Greenwood has beautifully developed the relationships in the series. They're layered, rich, and complex. She weaves politics, economics, social issues, a hint of romance, humor, and mysteries into a brew that's dark wit a hint of sweet, rich, and engaging.

Some favorite quotes:

"Miss Fisher is a force of nature and there is never anything you can do about her."

"Well, darling, one does not like to watch a nice little woolly baa-lamb go leaping and gamboling into a field full of large bitey wolves. It has a certain morbid interest, I agree," said Phryne, sipping deeply. "But it is basically a blood sport and I don't even like fox-hunting."

The egg whites, apparently, had completely declined to be whipped.

...but Jane's writing looked like an intoxicated inky spider had staggered across the page on the way to the bar for another drink. Which it really didn't need.
Profile Image for Karen.
1,785 reviews105 followers
January 15, 2013
It's almost impossible now to read these books and not have visions of the perfect Essie Davies as Phryne in the TV series wafting elegantly before your eyes. Which actually enhances the storylines as, although always beautifully described and outlined by Greenwood, she now has a physicality and a more three dimensional feel. It also didn't hurt that the dialogue, which was always crisp, sharp, clever and funny, has a voice as well.

I sort of lost my way with the Phryne Fisher series somewhere back in the middle of what is now 19 books, and it was actually sharing the listening to the audio books with himself in the car that rekindled interest. It's too easy to forget the humour, and the gentle social commentary in these books, especially when the cover art and the blurbs often tend to suggest that there's something slightly on the cosy side about the series. Whilst the delivery might be cleverly on the lighter side, and the humour subtle and very tongue in cheek, the plotlines are often veering into non-cosy territory (as does Miss Fisher's love life), but possibly, to my memory, never quite so pointedly as in UNNATURAL HABITS.

For a book that's set in 1929 there's something depressingly current day about the main storyline - the mistreatment, abuse and exploitation of young girls. Girls who are the victims of rape, abuse, poverty, neglect or simply girls who made a mistake, they were abandoned to systems and organisations which, whilst carefully revealed in UNNATURAL HABITS, were obviously appalling. Whilst Greenwood is cautious in her revelations of details of what went on, there is no masking the revulsion and disapproval of the institutions and facilities that treated young women, and their babies with such awful cruelty. It's the restraint with which many of the observations are made that makes them all the more pointed.

As with all things Phryne however, this is not a single stream plot. In the search for missing young girls, Phryne encounters a variety of establishments and people from the "gentlemen-only" Blue Cat Club, to the farming commune of women in Bacchus Marsh, and a brush with the "middle-class" which seems to have the potential to derail Phryne more than any of society's "fringe dwellers" ever would. In a particularly satisfying sidebar, there's also the small matter of a vigilante anaesthetising and surgically, and very skilfully, sterilising serial women abusers.

Melbourne, and Greater Victoria, are always lovingly rendered in these books. There's obviously considerable research into the locations of the period, but the books never read as a geographical treatise. The action insinuates itself into the landscape of the time beautifully, the little details of what Phryne sees, and experiences, come alive for the reader, transporting you back, for example, to the fledgling Apple Orchards of Bacchus Marsh and surrounds.

As you'd expect, there is quite a bit of ladylike and very non-ladylike action in these books. Phryne commits acts of daring doing in order to save the day, ably assisted by her retinue of minions (now where have I heard that word before...). Her household continues to evolve, her wardrobe to beguile, and her Melbourne enchant. You can't help but foster a sneaking desire for an Adventuresses Club, to see the wonder of the Blue Cat Club, and the Block Arcade as it was then.

UNNATURAL HABITS, by dint of the subject matter that it tackles, seems to have headed off into slightly darker territory than previous books, but it does it elegantly, and with the same sense of wrongs to be righted, offences to be avenged, and life to be lived.

Profile Image for Ivonne Rovira.
1,865 reviews191 followers
May 27, 2017
Pretty, blonde girls who are down on their luck have begun to disappear in Melbourne — including three in their eighth month of pregnancy. In the nineteenth novel to feature the Honorable Phryne Fisher, set in 1929, the fabulous Phryne begins the investigation with the disappearance of a well-meaning but blundering girl reporter with the made-for-19th-century-melodrama name of Polly Kettle. Phryne’s investigation then expands to the three missing unwed mothers and, eventually, to the larger criminal enterprise.

More details would spoil the novel for the reader, but the mystery proves very cleverly plotted. I can also say that all of Phryne’s fabulous family is back: the Butlers, her adopted daughters Ruth and Jane; her loyal maid and friend, Dot Williams; Dot’s shy boyfriend, policeman Hugh Collins; Inspector “Call Me Jack — Everyone Else Does” Robinson, “red-raggers” Cec and Bert, Phryne’s sister Eliza and her lesbian lover Lady Alice Harborough, and the worldly wise Dr. Elizabeth MacMillan. What a joy! Just like meeting up with old friends unexpectedly while out at dinner or shopping! Plus there’s a new addition to Phryne’s eclectic household: orphan Tinker, an urchin apparently picked up in No. 18 in the series, Dead Man's Chest, which I have yet to read.

Lastly, author Kerry Greenwood sometime draws attention to serious matters in her lightheartedly novels, and she does so here. The silence of the Church in the face of predatory priests and the sanctimonious cruelty of the Magdalene Laundries will prove a lesson for those who thought such crimes were of more recent vintage.
Profile Image for Anastasia.
1,338 reviews64 followers
July 23, 2019
Unnatural Habits by Kerry Greenwood is the 19th book in the Miss Fisher Mysteries series. Polly Kettle, a reprter, is investigating the disappearance of 3 pregnant girls when she is kidnapped and Miss Fisher finds herself investigating multiple disappearances of blonde girls. A superb, entertaining and absorbing book with all the usual characters included and multiple side mysteries and investigations. Everything is nicely wrapped up in the end.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
361 reviews1 follower
March 31, 2014
This was my first time reading this author. It's also one of the few times that I enjoyed the television version better than the book. I will try to read a few more to see if they grow on me but overall, I find the story written very lightly while the subject matter was very dark and heavy. The characters seemed very 2 dimensional and somewhat a disappointment.
Profile Image for Carl Brookins.
Author 26 books70 followers
January 8, 2013
I confess it’s a cause for celebration when another Phryne Fisher adventure shows up. Yes, the publisher sent this novel in the hope that I’d give it a review. Yes, I have written elsewhere that I love the Phryne Fisher crime novels. The Honorable Phryne Fisher is an aristocratic displaced single woman living on her inheritance in Melbourne, Australia where she serves the downtrodden and criminally beset. Her relations with a few coppers is excellent and she has over the years, taken to her bosom four needy souls, Dot who became Phryne’s secretary and factotum, and two teenaged girls, Jane and Ruth, rescued from serious poverty. Now a fourth, a boy named Tinker, a lad of unusual skills for one so young has joined the menage. Life on the streets and waterfronts will do that, I suppose.

In the early Twentieth Century, when the series is set, women as emancipated as is the Hon. Miss Fisher, are rare indeed. Her wealth is a great help, but so too are her attitudes and her diverse talents. Distant and poor relation of the aristocracy of the UK, the Great War elevated her to wealth and high society. Bored, she decamped to Australia, after a stint as an ambulance driver in the war. She is, in this outing, the mistress of a monstrously wealth Chinese merchant named Lin Chung.

The plot centers on the mysterious disappearances of small blond girls from the city. The question of why, since no bodies are discovered, is what has been done with them. At the same time, questions are arising as to the treatment of young pregnant and unmarried women by the local Catholic church.

This novel is darker and grittier than most of the previous stories in this series, but Fisher makes do in a most forthright fashion, focusing her justifiable wrath on kidnappers and religious zealots. Smoothly written as always, the pace is jaunty the scenes are well illuminated and the novel is thoroughly satisfying. I live in the hope for more adventures with this most excellent female investigator.
Profile Image for ❂ Murder by Death .
1,071 reviews123 followers
November 12, 2012
As usual for this series, this book was excellent. Really excellent. Phryne is like the 1920's, female version of James Bond. She's not a spy, mind you, but that same self assurance, unlimited means, elegant taste and ability to strike fear in all hearts, as well as lust in the male ones. She answers to nobody and lives by her own standard of ethics and morality, not the law. Nothing scares her.

Unnatural Habits covers more than a few plots - a missing girl, mistreatment of unwed soon-to-be-mothers, a string of abductions of both women and girls. Phyrne tackles them all with efficiency. Relying much more heavily on her family than in the past to resolve these problems, it seems she is more frustrated in her efforts than in previous books. This frustration and how she deals with it rounds out her character a bit, I think.

She has a great family of characters around her: her two adopted daughters, her personal maid, the Butlers, Bert and Cec and Tink, the newest member of the family. Each individual and interesting in their own right, and a lot of fun to read about. My only complain in this book is Phyrne's new habit of referring to them all as minions, which seems disrespectful and not at all in keeping with the personality Ms. Greenwood has gone to such great lengths to establish for Phyrne.

Ms. Greenwood does an excellent job of relaying the history of Melbourne in 1929 (give or take) - she really brings the city to life and as a transplant to Melbourne I love reading about the areas I recognise and learning about the history - the good, the bad and the very colourful.

I adore this whole series, and I'm hard pressed to even name one book in the whole that isn't excellent and a recommended read to anyone enjoying the genre. I look forward to Phyrne's future adventures and pray Ms. Greenwood never tires of her.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,006 followers
August 22, 2016
Unnatural Habits is one of the more memorable entries in the series, in that it has a lot of social commentary and some really appalling details which are, as far as I can tell, historically accurate, like the laundry run by nuns, the lying in homes where unmarried women had their babies and they were taken away, white slavery, etc. There’s also some interesting stuff with the Blue Cat Club — a gay club which apparently really existed — and the newspaper office where Polly Kettle, wannabe ace reporter, works. Phryne gets into quite a lot of trouble in this one, and the expanded circle of her minions, including Tinker, stand her in good stead.

The book also has the delightful side plot that someone is going around in a nun’s habit, knocking men out, and very skillfully and carefully operating on them so they can’t have any more children, in cases where they mistreat their wives/children, don’t provide for them, etc, etc. It’s problematic, of course, because it’s an assault, but it’s also just glorious poetic justice in a fictional context, so I don’t feel too bad for laughing about it.

The ending is predictably dramatic, and Phryne predictably kickass in bringing things to a neat conclusion. And I love the glimpses we get beyond her armour in her reaction to the laundries and what she sees in the lying in home.

Originally posted here.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
840 reviews
September 7, 2016
Always an enjoyable book to listen to, although I got a bit lost at the end, but this is not unusual for me with murder mysteries! I also felt like the ending dragged a little - there seemed to be a lot of different threads in this one, some of which were wrapped up sooner than others, and I think it was that making me feel that the ending was dragging on.
Profile Image for Terri.
1,354 reviews374 followers
June 4, 2018
I always love Miss Fisher! This one is about tracking down missing girls who are pregnant and forced to work in a horrible laundry by the Church. Another multilevel story with lots of twists and mysteries to solve. The gang (and its newest member - Tinker) investigate with enthusiasm. Loved it!
Profile Image for Tracey.
956 reviews7 followers
January 18, 2013
I have to admit that it has been some time since I read Phryne Fisher, I did manage a handful of the early novels, even watched the television series but was surprised to realise that Miss Fisher is up to book 19. This was no deterrent in reading Unnatural Habits for the only things that seemed to be different, from my memory of the earlier books, is that Phryne’s household has grown and she has more notoriety with the general public.
Miss Fisher is still her independent, free-wheeling, scandalous lady of Melbourne. When comes to solving a mystery Miss Fisher’s approach is simply to rattle the cages and see what or who comes loose. In this mystery, Miss Fisher is seeking to discover the whereabouts of three missing girls and the journalist, Polly Kettle who was reporting on the story.
The book for me was a quick read, the mystery engaging and a bit like meeting with an old friend after a couple of years away, a pleasurable get together. Yet once you have had that catch up, you are quite okay to wait some time before the next one because not much has changed. Miss Fisher still thumbs her nose at society, still approaches life with a take no prisoners’ attitude and shows her vulnerability briefly.
I do not know how many times ‘Oh you are Miss Fisher, I have heard so much about you’ was used to allow Phyne to gain trust or intimidate reluctant people. It seemed that no one was willing to stand up to Miss Fisher and perhaps that is what she needs is a worthy adversary.
The support characters are just that and are fleshed out well. Melbourne in 1929 is believable and you can walk into the world with great ease and feel that you are there.
The other thing is if you are trying to diet, do not read this book. There are so many descriptions of food that I could feel the calories leaping off the page.
Look it is a good read, it is fun, it is engaging and is perfect escapism.
Profile Image for Anna.
1,207 reviews19 followers
March 30, 2020
This has multiple really disturbing elements, which seriously dampened the fun, although the scene on the boats was thoroughly enjoyable.
Profile Image for Angela Savage.
Author 10 books57 followers
December 12, 2012
Explaining his reason for wrapping up the Kenzie-Gennaro series, Dennis Lehane allegedly says, "Have you every heard anyone say ‘The seventeenth book in the series was my favorite’?"

Perhaps Mr Lehane lacks Ms Greenwood's chutzpah as I'm here to say Unnatural Habits, the nineteenth book in the Phryne Fisher series, is my favourite to date.

The central plot concerns the disappearance from Melbourne of a swathe of golden-haired girls, some of them pregnant, and the ambitious but not at all streetwise girl reporter who has taken it upon herself to investigate. But as Ms Greenwood has explained, her reading often takes her off on tangents and there are several subplots involving the 'gentlemen only' Blue Cat Club, a separatist women's commune in Bacchus Marsh, and a vigilante who is going around anaesthetising abuses of women and sterilising them while they are under.

In addition to the usual appeal of Phryne Fisher novels - the sparkling heroine and her loyal entourage, the insights into the Melbourne of 1929 rendered in loving detail - I was particularly interested in the stories surrounding the Abbotsford Convent, where wayward young women, some of them pregnant, were sent to work in the laundries. I had a great-aunt who was a nun at the Convent (now an arts precinct) in the 1970s. We used to visit her often, and I have fond memories of 'the Magdalens', women in their 50s sent away to the convent as wayward girls and never claimed by their families. These women spoiled us kids rotten; it wasn't until years later I realised they may well have had their own babies taken from them and adopted out.

I also enjoyed the insight into Melbourne's queer history, afforded by the role of the Blue Cat Club in the narrative. The site of this former members' only club is on the corner of Centre Place (formerly Calico Alley) and Flinders Lane in Melbourne's CBD near where I work, and I love imagining it in its former glory: all crystal chandeliers, marble copies of the Apollo Belvedere and the David, and in the air 'the scent of patchouli, so favoured by dear Oscar.'

Author PM Newton once described Phryne Fisher novels as 'cosies with teeth', which is particularly apt in the case of Unnatural Habits, given what Phryne does to her lover Lin Chung after witnessing the appalling conditions to which the 'bad girls' in the laundries of the Abbotsford Convent are subjected.

There is a darker shade to Unnatural Habits and in my opinion, it becomes the Hon Miss Fisher very well.
2,846 reviews52 followers
April 17, 2017
I would like to thank Netgalley and Poisoned Pen Press for a review copy of Unnatural Habits, the 19th novel to feature the honourable Miss Phryne Fisher in 1920s Melbourne.

Phryne is on her way to her club when she has to rescue the impetuous and naïve cub reporter Margaret "Polly" Kettle from attack. A few days later her friend Inspector "just call me Jack, everyone does" Robinson asks for help in finding not only Polly but 3 unwed pregnant girls who have disappeared from their lying in hostel. What happens after that is a madcap adventure through some serious issues.

I love reading about Phryne's adventures. They are lighthearted, fun and frothy but have informative and serious social commentary as well. Unnatural Habits is no exception. The plotting is clever with Phryne's search for the missing women taking her all over Melbourne and into all echelons of society. She cuts a wide swathe in her charming, inimitable style. She meets the horror of the Magdalen Laundries, white slavers, brothel keepers and the love which must not say its name as she pursues her enquiries.

The issues are very real and well documented but Ms Greenwood has a light touch. She never preaches, just lays it out and uses Phryne's visceral reactions to expose the horror of it, all the time keeping the tone of the novel upbeat. I really admire her skill as it seems to be an impossible task and she manages it with ease.

Phryne Fisher is an inspired creation. She is rich and well educated, but that wasn't always the case so she knows both sides of the rich/poor divide. She is frivolous and revels in her privilege and the lifestyle it affords, hedonistic maybe, but she is also kind, caring and compassionate when the situation requires it. She is also smart and determined. What more could you ask for in a protagonist?

Unnatural Habits is an excellent read so I have no hesitation in recommending it.
Profile Image for Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all).
1,951 reviews181 followers
April 23, 2020
A nice, light, enjoyable read. Greenwood continues her love of punny names for characters (Polly Kettle, as in "put the kettle on", Sister Dolour, who's a real pain, etc). We finally make it into 1929 as Phryne steps into the breach to stop white slave trafficking out of Melbourne. Lin Chung makes only a cameo appearance in this novel, which is populated by prostitutes, good ol' boys, unwed mothers and nasty nuns of one kind and another...especially another.

Ruth, Jane, Tinker and Dot all pitch in to help Phryne in various ways. (She's going to have to stop picking up at least one waif or stray per episode, or they'll have to buy a derelict boarding school to house them all.) I was surprised to find that Phryne repeatedly refers to the crew as her "minions"--not a compliment, usually--and then when things start working out as *glurge* "darlings"--not in Phryne's usual line at all. But then her reactions weren't nearly as perfect and controlled in this episode either. We all have our off days.

I don't know if I was just not concentrating but I did find myself having to go back and re-read bits of this installment. But in any case, it's a good read for entertainment.
I think the only book of the series I haven't read yet is "Murder and Mendelsshon." What WILL I do for light-as-air fluff when I've done with that? Taking suggestions...
Profile Image for Shomeret.
1,042 reviews201 followers
February 28, 2017
Magdalene laundries in Australia? I had thought they were only an Irish phenomenon, but apparently there have been Magdalene laundries in any country where there have been Catholics. Girls from a Magdalene laundry are disappearing. A naive female writer decides to investigate and promptly disappears herself. So it becomes a job for Phryne Fisher.

Another interesting aspect of this novel is that Phryne has an apprentice who is a Tinker. There is some culture conflict between the young Tinker and the rest of Phryne's household.

The resolution was marvelous and involved an actual woman historical personage. I will want to read more about her. She's in the bibliography that Greenwood includes.
Profile Image for Marlene.
2,847 reviews192 followers
September 11, 2021
Originally published at Reading Reality

I was looking for a book where I would sorta/kinda know what I was in for, and one in which I could sink without a trace for a few hours. I realized that I hadn’t looked in on Phryne for a while (my goodness it’s been over a year!) so I took myself off and into the next book in the series and I most definitely got exactly what I was hoping for.

The mystery, actually the multiple mysteries, in Unnatural Habits take Phryne to dark corners of Melbourne where a lesser woman would fear to tread – if she could bring herself to even acknowledge that she knew about most of them.

But Phryne doesn’t care what other people think about much of anything, including, most especially herself. So when she sees a young woman about to be beaten up by a brace of thugs in one of the less salubrious parts of town, Phryne does not hesitate even a moment to weigh up the possible consequences.

After all, she knows that her lover, Lin Chung, has assigned several of his men to keep watch over her when she travels into parts of town where angels and demons alike would fear to tread. So Phryne rescues the young woman, Lin Chung’s men “explain” to the bullyboys the error of their ways and Phryne finds herself in the middle of a case that begins with missing pregnant women not even the police are investing much effort in searching for.

When the tally of the missing grows to include actresses looking for a break, very young – and blonde – daughters of the middle class, and even the young woman Phryne rescued – who turns out to be a newspaper reporter hunting for her first big scoop – Phryne calls on her friends in some very low places indeed. Where she manages to air the dirty laundry of the princes of the church, laundry that seems to be wrapped around the mangles of the church-sponsored workhouse known as the Magdalene Laundry.

In the end, Phryne commits piracy – with more than a bit of help from Bert and Ces – in order to bring justice in a case that no one is willing to admit needed to be solved.

Escape Rating A-: Phryne Fisher is a fascinating character because her conscience is explicitly NOT the voice of society, her parents, other people or any kind of powers-that-be telling her what she SHOULD or should not be doing because she’s a woman. Or for any other reason whatsoever. Phryne does what she pleases, however she pleases, because she can. She’s been rich and she’s been poor and she’s very much aware that being rich is not only better but that it gives her license to do the necessary without worrying about anyone’s approval.

And that’s important to this case because the missing women she is looking for are so-called “fallen” women. The Magdalene Laundry was a real place, and like so many of the charitable institutions operated by the Catholic Church in many places, it was horrifically abusive. The women sent there were unwed mothers who were expected to work under slave labor conditions until they got close to their due dates, when they were shipped off to rural “lying in” homes that could be just as abusive until they gave birth. Their babies were taken away without the women’s consent and put up for adoption. Or they were if they survived the cruel treatment inflicted upon their mothers.

That three of these women managed to escape before their babies were born isn’t a surprise. That no one seriously wants to look for them is unfortunately even less of one. The theories for their disappearance – as ludicrous as most of those theories are – cause Phryne to search among the demimonde of Melbourne to make sure that they’re not in a brothel – and equally that none of the brothels or other private houses of pleasure will be blamed for their disappearance – because both are all too possible. Likewise, no one is looking for the missing actresses, because actresses are assumed to be prostitutes whether they are or not.

That Phryne is not just acquainted with Melbourne’s fleshpots but likes the people who work in these establishments considerably more than most people of so-called “polite” parts of society is not a surprise for Phryne but certainly would be for anyone in the upper or middle classes. Part of what makes Phryne so refreshing is that her internal voice – and frequently her external one – is not just clever and witty but is unequivocally pragmatic and remarkably free of prejudice in regards to race, religion or sexual orientation. For the most part she takes people as she finds them. Her most scathing commentaries are saved for hypocrites, pretenders and fakers and I love her all the more for it.

I’m probably belaboring this point by now, but if you come to the Phryne Fisher books in the hopes of seeing more of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, you’re probably going to be disappointed. But if you’re looking at the books for a sparkling, witty historical mystery with a take-charge female protagonist who strides through her world doing her best to make it better by ignoring social norms, taking no prisoners and puncturing as many of the pomposities of the powers-that-be as she possibly can, then Phryne is still very much your cuppa.

She certainly is mine. So I’ll be back the next time I’m searching for Phryne’s particular brand of derring-do with Murder and Mendelssohn. There’s only one more book in the series (so far) after that, so I’ll be stretching this little pleasure out as far as I can stand!
Profile Image for CatBookMom.
995 reviews
May 1, 2017
One of the best of the series. The more I listen or read, the more I like the book and the audio of it. Stephanie Daniel will be very much missed.

The whole 'Magdalen laundry' setup was shameful and outrageous, and I thank Ms Greenwood for exposing it. Can't do anything about it so many years after the fact, but we can be hopeful that such narrow-minded views never arise again.
1,344 reviews20 followers
December 2, 2019
This is another one of the darker Phryne Fisher novels. But the found family is particularly well done in it, so I have rounded up. I continue to enjoy Tinker. His dynamic with Jane is particularly good.
Profile Image for Annie.
1,328 reviews31 followers
November 10, 2018
Phryne takes on Evil Nuns and other Bad People.

‘Tonight is for celebration. Have you decided what you are celebrating?’ ‘Freedom,’ said Phryne,
Profile Image for Brandi Thompson.
259 reviews7 followers
November 28, 2019
I’ve read nearly the entire Phryne canon, and this may be my favorite book of the entire series! It’s full of feminism and the hatred of classism, while still retaining the charm and wit of Phryne and her companions.
Profile Image for Jeanne.
1,220 reviews
March 5, 2020
I listened to the audiobook and it was fantastic. Well done.
163 reviews1 follower
September 15, 2019
One of the better Phryne books. Only one more to go!
Profile Image for Marijan Šiško.
Author 1 book64 followers
December 19, 2017
The quality of Greenwood's writing definitely improves as series goes on, and depth of her research, too. I love a well researched book, and I can't stress that enough. and this one a is a real beaut!
Profile Image for Angela.
383 reviews93 followers
May 1, 2021
Unnatural Habits (Phryne Fisher, #19) by Kerry Greenwood

Synopsis /

1929: Girls are going missing in Melbourne. Little, pretty golden-haired girls. And not just pretty. Three of them are pregnant, poor girls from the harsh confines of the Magdalene Laundry. People are getting nervous. Polly Kettle, a pushy, self-important Girl Reporter with ambition and no sense of self preservation, decides to investigate - and promptly goes missing herself. It's time for Phryne and Dot to put a stop to this and find Polly Kettle before something quite irreparable happens to all of them. It's all piracy and dark cellars, convents and plots, murder and mystery .... and Phryne finally finds out if it's true that blondes have more fun.

My Thoughts /

Murder in Montparnasse is book #19 in the Phryne Fisher series.

In this Episode we have a whole slew of things going on! Issues such as homosexuality, under the guise of a “gentlemen’s club” which offers a safe haven for all its members; to brothels; child abuse; to white slavery and a bit of communism thrown into the mix – all set in the sequined, glittered and feathered world of the 1920’s. And, as always, Phryne has multiple problems to solve, which seemingly are all somehow connected. As you'd expect, there is quite a bit of ladylike and very non-ladylike action in this book!

In this episode, Phryne investigates the disappearance of three pregnant girls (after a chance encounter with a young female reporter for The Daily Truth). The reporter, Margaret Kettle, aka Polly, is determined to make a name for herself as a ‘serious’ journalist. However, her enquiries into the fate of the three extremely pregnant missing girls (who were last seen at a pious widow’s (author’s words not mine!) nursing home) have failed to uncover their whereabouts.

This instalment has all of my favourites! This investigation is a family affair!!!! Phryne makes full use of all her minions (again, her words, not mine!) her daughters (Jane and Ruth) who are on vacation from school. Skilfully assisted by Dot (naturally). Tinker (aka Tink) shows he’s brilliant at sleuthing. Along with Bert and Cec, who have proved their worth time and time again. Mr & Mrs B make appearances, along with Detective Inspector John ‘Call me Jack, everyone does’ Robinson, and Dot’s beloved Constable Hugh Collins. In this episode, we are introduced to Phryne’s sister Eliza and her lesbian lover Lady Alice Harborough, and re-introduced to the worldly wise Dr. Elizabeth MacMillan.

Another madcap adventure through some serious issues.
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