Phryne Fisher is doing one of her favorite things—cutting the rug at the Green Mill, Melbourne’s premier dance hall. In a sparkling lobelia-colored georgette dress, dancing to the stylings of Tintagel Stone’s Jazzmakers, nothing can flap the unflappable flapper. Nothing except death, that is.
The dance competition is trailing into its final hours when suddenly, in the middle of “Bye Bye Blackbird,” one of her fellow contestants slumps to the ground. No shot was heard, and Phryne, conscious of how narrowly the missile must have missed her own bared shoulder, undertakes to investigate. This leads her into the dark and smokey jazz clubs of Fitzroy, the arms of eloquent strangers, and finally into the the sky, on the trail of a complicated family tragedy of the Great War and the damaged men who served at Gallipoli. In the Australian Alps, she meets a hermit with a dog called Lucky and a wombat living under his bunk… and risks her life on the love between brothers.
November always finds me reading (and watching) historic mysteries. I don’t know what it is about this time of year that has me longing for quirky mysteries and spunky detectives, but you can bet my mystery TBR pile has grown in the last two weeks! One of my go-to gumshoes is Phryne Fisher. The tv show (available on Netflix) is fantastic, and the books are equally enjoyable. I have previously reviewed the first four books in the series, and it’s time to add the fifth story, The Green Mill Murder. Phryne hits the town determined to listen to jazz and dance the night away when a crooked man falls dead at her feet. Phryne finds herself on the hunt for a murderer, dealing with a number of unsavory folk, and flying over mountains in search of a lost soldier. I have an announcement for fans of the show. There is a Green Mill Murder episode, but it is a tad different than the novel. The murder is the same for both, as are the exquisite settings of both the jazz scene and the mountains of the Australian wilderness. But, the relationships between characters are drastically different, which is both good and bad. Let’s start with why I loved The Green Mill Murder, the flying. Greenwood expertly describes the sensation of flying in an open cockpit plane. The feel of ice on the wind, the overwhelming sense of utter freedom, and the smells of the engine fuel and oil had me wanting to put the book down and take off in my little plane. I could feel the tug of mud on wheels upon landing, and the encompassing fear of a sudden fog. Phryne’s flight, and subsequent time in the mountains, is what saved this book AND instilled it as my current favorite in the series.
Honestly, I wasn’t enjoying the story until Phryne took off in her little Gypsy Moth bi-plane. I felt the tv episode had done everything better. I preferred Charlie as a likable character instead of the cruel brat in the book. I felt the tv show actually handled the then illegal same sex relationship shared by Charlie and his lover instead of rushing through it, as in the book. And Phryne’s indifference and impatience through the first half of the novel matched my own feelings. I was worried about continuing the story, but then Phryne went flying!
But flying wasn’t the story’s only saving grace. The Green Mill Murder allows readers a deeper look into the thought processes of our strong willed detective. We see Phryne struggle to tolerate tedious people. We see her trying to mingle with the jazz musicians, only to remain an outsider. And we watch her learn to embrace her need for the lights and sounds of the city while hiding out in the quiet wilderness. It’s a stark look at an intelligent woman who struggles to fit in the world around her, and it was nice to see this side of Phryne.
The Green Mill Murder also provides a blunt examination of shell shock and PTSD. We hear stories shared by Bert and Cec, and watch as Phryne slowly uncovers the events that changed Vic’s world. It is an enlightening aspect of the story which left me feeling hopeful even after the last page was turned.
I recommend reading The Green Mill Murder and then watching the episode. I feel both were good in their own ways. Let me know which Mis Fisher story is your favorite. And i enjoy these cold winter nights with a good cup of coffee and a fun murder mystery!